The hero of Everyman is obsessed with mortality. As he reminds himself at one point, "I'm 34! Worry about oblivion when you're 75." But he cannot help himself. He is the ex-husband in three marriages gone wrong. He is the father of two sons who detest him, despite a daughter who adores him. And as his health worsens, he is the envious brother of a much fitter man. A masterful portrait of one man's inner struggles, Everyman is a brilliant showcase for one of the world's most distinguished novelists.
Listen to an interview with Philip Roth on Fresh Air.
©2006 Philip Roth; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC.
"Roth continues exercising his career-defining, clear-eyed, intelligent vision of how the psychology of families works." (Booklist)
"This is an artful yet surprisingly readable treatise on...well, on being human....Through it all, there's that Rothian voice: pained, angry, arrogant, and deeply, wryly funny." (Publishers Weekly)
"Our most accomplished novelist. . . . [With Everyman] personal tenderness has reached a new intensity." (The New Yorker)
Audible Member Since 2003
This is a powerful book. If you are looking for a happy ending, denouement, or epiphany – look elsewhere. Right off the bat this book begins at the end, the funeral of the main, nameless character. So there are no illusions about how the story ends. But that’s really the point, because that is how the story ends for every human. Says the author, ‘old age isn’t a war- it’s a massacre.’
In a short space the back-story is filled in; from the main character’s childhood, his loving, Jewish parents, his doting big brother to his three failed marriages, his career uncertainty, his selfless daughter and estranged sons. Throughout, his medical history is detailed, along with his hypochondriacal dread. All of this is related in perfect Philip Roth unflinching fashion. And if this sounds dry, it is anything but. Roth skillfully lays bare the humanity of each character in only the way this author can.
This book will make the listener look at his or hers own life and mortality and I must say that it impacted me as strongly as any novel in recent history.
As with all Roth’s novels one can’t help but wonder that some of the material is autobiographical. Just how much is or isn’t makes no matter, because it could be universally autobiographical… for every man and woman.
I am giving this book a hefty four stars just because the writing level is Philiip Roth delivering his usual consistent quality, his facility with language much in evidence, his brilliance in targeted metaphor, and his characters meticulously drawn and never cliched. And he is one of our national literary treasures, along with Updike, Charles Frazier ("Cold Mountain") and Anne Tyler. There are other writers I've missed, but, contrary to belief in some circles, literature seems to be thriving as our national art form at the moment. Not that we always need a national art form, but I disagree that "the novel is dead".
Roth also gets special points for taking an "everystory" in which nothing unusual happens, a plot that unfolds day in and day out in lives across the country and all over the world, and turning it into a narrative with magnetic appeal and drama in detail. Isn't that what writing is about, really, the small everyday details?
But the story suffers from the narrrator's contribution. I respect Guidall's vast experience as an interpreter of audiobooks but in this case he just doesn't forge that critical bond with Roth. Throwing lines away, muttering like a sixtysomething curmudgeon himself, he removes any possible intimacy with the story and with its characters.
It compares negatively to the sensitive reading of Roth's "The Human Stain" by Arliss Howard, in which his rendering of lyrical phrases gave me chills and was the equivalent of listening to a musical work as significant as Handel's "Messiah" for example.
Instead of portraying a sensitive man dealing with the everyday challenges of a pedestrian life, Guidall gives us an oldish fuddy-duddy, sounding much like the aging, annoying uncle who appears at holiday dinners. Ergo four stars, not five.
As one of America's preeminent writer's, Philip Roth sets the standard for depth and insight in his novels, and "Everyman" is a worthy addition to his canon. Without judgement or irony, Roth takes us into life's struggle with demons and angels. Roth unfolds, not so much a story, as an observation, capturing the pain of life in such of peace, if not happiness. Whether this speaks to the universal human condition I cannot say, but as a someone who walks with those who are struggling with their live's meanings, I can say that Roth gives something to reflect upon with every turn of the page. This should be required reading.
George Guidall is an excellent reader for Roth's novella -- unlike many other readers, he doesn't overact, and simply gets out of the way of Roth's prose. Recommended.
I joined mission Audible in April 1997, contributed in some small way to its growth and maturity, and left at the end of 2012.
Roth has written yet another brilliantly full-blooded character in this engrossing story of a man at the end of his life. Examining his own history, his family, his friends and his choices the protagonist is revealed as flawed and vibrantly real person. Who isn't. This is great writing, great literature and the story is filled with tension and release, making ita terrific listening experience. Highly recommended.
A very important writer, but the book leaves a bit to be desired. I thought more about the book after I finished it, thoughts of mortality and what we are all doing about it, so in that sense perhaps it was better than I rated it.
This book reminded me of Tolstoy's, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It brings you face to face with how you live your life, what the trajectory of your life should be from the perspective of live's inevitable passing. The book forces you to examine those aspects of your life that you may not be proud of, and helps show you the potential consequences of risky living.
I replayed certain scenes in this book several times, and the messages that I took from it have stayed with me now for many months.
This is not a feel-good book at all, but one that will make you think, examine, and question.
This was a pleasure to hear, such an intelligent book. George Guidall's narration profits from the fact that he seems very comfortable and familiar with the text and its meaning as well as a generally pleasant voice.
I love Philip Roth's novels best of all American fiction, and this effort is a touching though short examination of the struggle with our common fate - to be one day full of life and loving life and the next day to die.
This particular struggle to understand his unavoidable fate concerns one man, very much from New Jersey, whose funeral opens the novella. His life and his work are seen through the prism of his relationships to those who attend his funeral. But the book seems (as so many of Roth's books do) as a personal cri de coeur, a struggle to understand illness in a man whose older brother has never been ill and to understand why he is so alone after so much love and passion in the first six decades of his life.
What I love so much about Roth's writing is the depth of his quest to understand how to live via an incredibly rational intelligence and a great feel for the absurd anchored in a time and American place. Not every book is perfect, but they are all better than most. Roth could only have written in America, not anywhere else in the world - his novels are those of immigrants and their succeeding generations and very anchored in the places and time in which he has lived. Perhaps that is what the Swedes say they don't like in Philip Roth's work - I recently read a comment that Americans don't get Nobel prizes because they are too 'narrow'.....but that is what I love about Roth's novels, how they illuminate what is unique about this time and place in America.
His later novels touch me at a level few authors can reach because they ask the most fundamental questions about life and love and fate while addressing our connection to time and place with an affection and an attention to detail that is unique. In 'American Pastoral' his discussion of Newark and the glove industry are like a paean to the artistry and craft of that time. In 'Everymen' he gives the same treatment to the jewelry trade in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is able to represent the beauties of the world as it was when he grew up without suggesting that the past was better than the present. He pays tribute to the virtues of the past without worshiping it as better than today. He gives a sense for the nature of generations as they recede from the generations of immigrants who came here.
Roth writes of the landscape of his life with such detail and love, it always makes me emotional to talk about why I love his books so much.
"An eye that hath kept watch o'er man's mortality"
This is a sombre, powerful novel,a moving portrayal of how, an ordinary, flawed man -hence Everyman - faces death. Enjoyment would perhaps not be the appropriae word for such a theme but I found this novel a gripping and worthwhile experience. Roth is a most skilful writer and the reading by George Guidall is finely judged.Compelling listening - if you are prepared to think about your own mortality.
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