Thursday, March 29, 2007


Title: Everyman
Author: Philip Roth

Vintage, 2007 (Jonathan Cape, 2006)

This slim novel is easily devoured and, except for a classic, pathetic Rothy escapade in the middle, tender and sad. Everyman is an art director who me meet at first at his own funeral. From the funeral we move back in time, taking in the full scope of his life, which is a sad one. Unable to manage marriage, he is lonely and towards the end of his life consumed and broken by heart decease. His surprise and disappointment in his own body is touching.

The language was smooth, pleasant and at times, evocative. In the second part of the book however, the "Rothy escapade" took place, i.e. an older man miraculously has his way with young beauties! In just three pages, Everyman goes doggystyle with his 19-year-old secretary of two weeks: "it took no time for each of them to achieve a vigorous orgasm" (Yes, of course, because that always happens) and seduces a 24-year-old Danish model hired by his company: "[i]f you like that little hole, why don't you use it?", she says about her rectum( well, of course she does, since it's what every young woman dreams of). It's a jarring sequence with a false ring to it. In Swedish we have a fitting expression: gubbsjuka, which, roughly translated means "the sickness of old men." Well, I think Roth has caught it and he should try to keep it out of his books.

Despite this pathetic blunder and the somewhat poorly drawn female characters (very madonna and whore), I would still recommend this novel. It rallies its forces after the aforementioned episode and Everyman becomes very human in his isolation at the end of life. We should all read more books about ageing and this is a good place to start.

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