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27th Book By Philip Roth “Everyman” A Gem, But Not For Everyone

Philip Roth’s latest 182-page book is very readable, enjoyable, but especially for the vulnerable, the imperfect, the sexually inclined, the human who is aging, facing what all of us face as life winds down…

“Everyman” by Philip Roth is a short [182 page] meditation of sorts on old age, the vulnerability of the body, and mistakes made during life. The main character is the one who Mr. Roth projects, probably from his own experiences, through three marriages and thinks like this: [he is in the dilapidated vandalized graveyard in New Jersey where
his parents are buried, about to go into the hospital yet again, in a few days, this time for his other-side carotid endarterectomy to clean out that vessel which supplies the brain with blood, and sometimes can also carry clots upstairs, which in common lingo is a “stroke.”]

“They were just bones, bones in a box, but their bones
were his bones, and he stood as close to the bones as he could, as though the proximity might link him up with them and mitigate the isolation born of losing his future and reconnect him with all that had gone. For the next hour and a half, those bones were the things that mattered most. They were all that mattered, despite the impingement of the neglected cemetery’s environment of decay. Once he was with those bones he could not leave them, couldn’t not talk to them, couldn’t but listen to them when they spoke. Between him and those bones there was
a great deal going on, far more than now
transpired between him and those still clad in
their flesh. The flesh melts away but the bones
endure. The bones were the only solace there was
to one who put no stock in an afterlife and knew without
a doubt that God was a fiction and this was the only
life he?d have. As young Phoebe might have put it back
when they first met, it was not going too far to say that
his deepest pleasure now was at the cemetery. Here
alone contentment was attainable.”

Yes, life is rough. You get old and then you lose your
confidence, your assuredness of your strength and
importance in the world. Family and love adventures
do not always work together. Your friends and mates
die off if you live long enough, or maybe too long, if
that is possible. What reliability that
was so basic to his father’s nurturing him in his Everyman’s
Jewelry Store in Newark, just is not what it used to
be when our main character started out his working days as a runner and messenger for Dad back when he was barely ten years old.

Information about jewelry is very engaging in this 27th book
of Roth’s; as is the most informative portion of the book,
his interaction with the gravedigger at the end of the book.
Have you ever thought about the science of digging a grave by hand? how long it takes? what the various components of the job are? to also consider the aesthetic appreciation by the deceased’s kin?

“Everyman” is one of Philip Roth’s best books, in one of
those convenient, easy-reading sizes that will not
overwhelm you. That you can read in maybe half a day
or so, and be impelled onward as you go, with plenty
of spots to rest where there are a few empty lines
in between the text.

This one did make it onto the New York Times list of
100 Best Books of 2006, and I agree.

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