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Publisher's Summary

At 40, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction - pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line. Now his work is trekking from one doctor to another, but none can find a cause for the pain or assuage it. Zuckerman himself wonders if the pain could have been caused by his own books. And while he is wondering, his dependence on painkillers grows into an addiction to vodka, marijuana, and Percodan.

The third volume in the Nathan Zuckerman series, The Anatomy Lesson provides some of the funniest scenes in all of Roth's fiction - as well as some of the fiercest.

©2013 Philip Roth (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 03-16-17

Pain is like a baby crying

“Pain is like a baby crying. What it wants it can't name.”
― Philip Roth, The Anatomy Lesson

The Anatomy Lesson is book # 3 in the Zuckerman Bound trilogy. The first two being The Ghost Writer and Zuckerman Unbound. The Prague Orgy is also included often, as it is the epilogue (thus turning the trilogy into a tetralogy.

Anyway, like all of the Zuckerman novels, Roth is brutal in his introspection. Zuckerman has bottled up his anger at his moralist critics and mental anguish at the death of his parents to the extent that he actually suffers physically and is unable to write. This creative castration of Zuckerman serves to drive the narrative (as much as this type of novel has a driven narrative). Mostly, it deals with conversations with friends and doctors, physical relationships with female caregivers, and large doses of philosophical tangents on pain, pleasure, defense of creativity, consciousness, kin, death, doubt, etc.

One of my favorite sections of the book was Zuckerman riffing on the inside of his mouth:

"When he wasn't sucking liquid pulp or sleeping, he went exploring his mouth with his tongue. Nothing existed but the inside of his mouth. He made all sorts of discoveries in there. Your mouth is who you are. You can't get very much closer to what you think of yourself. The next stop up is the brain. No wonder fellatio has achieved such renown. Your tongue lives in your mouth and your tongue is you. He sent his tongue everywhere to see what he was doing beyond the mental arch bars and elastic bands. Across the raw vaulted dome of the palate, down to the tender cavernous sockets of the missing teeth, and then the plunge below the gum line. That is where they'd opened him up and wired him together. For the tongue it was like the journey up the river in "Heart of Darkness". The mysterious stillness, the miles of silence, the tongue creeping conradianly on toward Kurtz. I am the Marlowe of my mouth."

12 of 17 people found this review helpful