Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Everyman - Philip Roth

I’m way beyond being able to review any Philip Roth books objectively. There are those that I love and those that I want to devour again and again and will never be able to get enough of.

His latest book, Everyman, is a dead man’s reflection on his life, how it was for him to be alive - making mistakes, being in pain, taking pleasure, leaving desirous and intentional imprints as well as their direct opposites, and is less than two hundred pages. And falls into the latter camp of my Roth book types.

With his usual evocative language and descriptions, the reality of the life he retells and its resonance with me - young white English woman vs old Jewish American man - could be seen to prove his title’s goal is achieved (if it could be considered as such).

There are echoes of characters I have loved in books before – the tall, athletic successful Jewish businessman of American Pastoral makes another appearance as Howard, the brother, the lusty Polish Catholic late-in-life lover from Sabbath's Theater appears here, only this time she is an Irish nurse. But coming to them again does not tarnish the depiction for me, working with uniquely illustrated archetypes is well suited to a book seeking universal truth through an individual’s life pickings.

What struck me most was that if all drama is about a situation where protagonists are trapped, never before for me has a book expressed so elegantly that life is always a drama within which we are trapped, repeating patterns that could be interpreted as themes, echoing past lives and promising future change, through which others may make sense of their lives or may simply leave them untouched, doomed to deepen the coastal shelf. And it explains, ultimately, how each life is really just a moment, an inexpert performance – more am dram than RSC.

If you are so inclined, read it and tell me what you think. I am planning to read again – in my pleasure and greed I inhaled it a bit too quickly and have been left giddy so apologies if this doesn’t give you enough to be getting on with – Guardian and Independent reviews no doubt more enlightening.

Lastly, am in Essex this week without broadband so updates are sporadic but will be coming - more on a later date about St George flags and villages where the only black face is on the peeling Neighbourhood Watch stickers.

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