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"I'm seventy-one. Your boy is seventy one",
This review is from: Everyman (Hardcover)It amazes me how an irritable old so and so like Roth can write another novel about an ageing, death obsessed has-been, full of sex, failure and New Jersey, that is again a wonderful eulogy to the power of the human spirit. It is, like the original medieval "Everyman", a poem of the highest quality, "a treatise of how the father of heaven, sends death to summon every creature to come and give account of their lives in this world...in the manner of a moral play". Written by the unbelieving minstrel of modern America, it is no less a masterpiece.
Here you will find echoes of "I married a Communist" - the stars as reminders of human mortality, and "American Pastoral" - the collosal power of empathy with human fallibility (indeed its celebration). But the tone is gentler and less angry. The author seems to be more at peace with himself, as if he too has trodden the path of the medieval play and lost those friends who were fickle and worldly too. This is closely structured novel, contrasting with the epic quality of much of Roth's greatest work. It is simple, lyrical, and just plain takes your breath away.
You see Roth can make you cry. He can make big happy sentimental tears roll down your face. And what is wrong with sentiment? Is that not what keeps us alive? The graveyard scene at the end of the play is one of the finest pieces of writing I have ever read. The whole book is like holding a skull in one's hand, and as in "Hamlet", you feel the loss of Yorrick.
Often flying into Newark I have surveyed the houses below, looking for a glimpse of Roth's world. Now it draws me even closer, due to the power of Roth's words. I want to taste the air of that wonderful cemetery. I want to be possess what Roth possesses. "He couldn't go. The tenderness was out of control. As was the longing for everyone to be living. And to have it all over again." And at the end, the hero meets the same fate as in the old play, liberated from that which is transient, with just that human goodness pumping so hard in his failing heart.
Sorry to wax so lyrical, but that is how Roth gets you. He just raises your sights.