My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first book by Roth that I’ve read. I saw the book in a secondhand shop & thought to give it a go. I had no idea what to expect.
Turns out it’s a book about being old, dying & death. The main character is a atheist Jewish American & he bas does a poor job of living. Thrice married & divorced, estranged from wife, kids & family he is retired, lonely & without hope or a future.
It’s a fairly detailed study of failing health & of someone who, while being sure death was the end & nothing more, wasted the one life he believed he had. A successful career in the end proving to be completely insufficient to make up for his inability to sustain friendship or relationship.
Roth adds some fairly graphic sex into the proceedings showing how a man who lives by animal instinct is likely to end up alone.
Roth also gives details to old age & failing health. There are strokes, heart attacks, operations, aches & pains that become the sum of conversation.
“Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre.”
It’s a bleak book & as a result I’d be tempted to encourage lots of people to read it & then ask them, “Are you living any different?” “Do you have any hope?”
Roth’s skull as a writer is evident because he’s taken a bleak subject (death & failing health) & a fairly unsympathetic character (who Roth says is ‘everyman’) but still managed to write an engaging & engrossing story. Although I may not have thought the same had I read it in my 20s instead of my 40s when old age doesn’t seem quite so far away.
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