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Everyman [Audio CD]

Philip Roth , George Guidall
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 27.72 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

May 9 2006
Philip Roth's new novel is a candidly intimate yet universal story of loss, regret, and stoicism. The bestselling author of The Plot Against America now turns his attention from "one family's harrowing encounter with history" (New York Times) to one man's lifelong skirmish with mortality.

The fate of Roth's everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements of his vigorous adulthood, and into his old age, when he is rended by observing the deterioration of his contemporaries and stalked by his own physical woes.

The terrain of this powerful novel is the human body. Its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Sara NelsonWhat is it about Philip Roth? He has published 27 books, almost all of which deal with the same topics—Jewishness, Americanness, sex, aging, family—and yet each is simultaneously familiar and new. His latest novel is a slim but dense volume about a sickly boy who grows up obsessed with his and everybody else's health, and eventually dies in his 70s, just as he always said he would. (I'm not giving anything away here; the story begins with the hero's funeral.) It might remind you of the old joke about the hypochondriac who ordered his tombstone to read: "I told you I was sick."And yet, despite its coy title, the book is both universal and very, very specific, and Roth watchers will not be able to stop themselves from comparing the hero to Roth himself. (In most of his books, whether written in the third person or the first, a main character is a tortured Jewish guy from Newark—like Roth.) The unnamed hero here is a thrice-married adman, a father and a philanderer, a 70-something who spends his last days lamenting his lost prowess (physical and sexual), envying his healthy and beloved older brother, and refusing to apologize for his many years of bad behavior, although he palpably regrets them. Surely some wiseacre critic will note that he is Portnoy all grown up, an amalgamation of all the womanizing, sex- and death-obsessed characters Roth has written about (and been?) throughout his career.But to obsess about the parallels between author and character is to miss the point: like all of Roth's works, even the lesser ones, this is an artful yet surprisingly readable treatise on... well, on being human and struggling and aging at the beginning of the new century. It also borrows devices from his previous works—there's a sequence about a gravedigger that's reminiscent of the glove-making passages in American Pastoral, and many observations will remind careful readers of both Patrimony and The Dying Animal—and through it all, there's that Rothian voice: pained, angry, arrogant and deeply, wryly funny. Nothing escapes him, not even his own self-seriousness. "Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work," he has his adman-turned-art-teacher opine about an annoying student. Obviously, Roth himself is a professional. (May 5)Sara Nelson is editor-in-chief of PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Does Roth's new novel top or even match the stunning accomplishment of his previous one, the best-selling and award-winning The Plot against America (2004)? It is shorter in length and narrower in scope. It is the portrait of an ordinary man--he novel's title is apt--who accomplishes nothing extraordinary. Strict chronology is set aside as various episodes from the past and the present jostle for center stage. The motif of death followed this man throughout his life, beginning in boyhood, and with the advent of middle age, the frailty of the flesh, in both sexual and physical terms, is increasingly apparent to him. Despite its shortness in length and relative narrowness in scope, this novel speaks eloquently about life's un fulfillments, about making adjustments if the unfolding of one's life doesn't follow the original plan. Roth continues exercising his career-defining, clear-eyed, intelligent vision of how the psychology of families works. In The Plot against America, we saw how a family reacts to external forces; here, the reaction is to a family's internal circumstances. Perhaps, then, more readers will find this lean, poig-nant novel more relevant to themselves. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
A popular exercise among self-help gurus is to ask their students to imagine themselves attending their own funeral. What would the student like to be said then? Who should attend?

Everyman reminded me of that insightful thought experiment.

Everyman opens at our narrator's funeral. There are some former colleagues from his advertising career, neighbors from the retirement village where he had been living, his daughter, two sons from a first marriage, his older brother and sister-in-law, his second wife (and his daughter's mother) and a former private duty nurse from a prior illness. You'll read his daughter's words which tell you the family's history.

Then, the narrator takes over to relate his life. The primary themes are family connection, taking on adult responsibilities, physical attraction to the opposite sex, life mistakes, physical decline and passing beyond this life. The perspective is that of an elderly man in not very good health, who objects to his health challenges.

The book is remarkably spare for a Philip Roth novel. I liked the contrast to his more elaborate works. This book is about the monologue in one's own head, and you don't need a lot of other material to capture that mind-set. A few incidents, scattered here and there, simply serve to elaborate on the narrator's character and perspective.

But the book transcends its narrator's life to touch on the important life passages and challenges we all have or will face. If you are like me, you'll find yourself re-examining your own life and plans.

As the book jacket points out, the title is intended to refer to an anonymously written fifteenth-century allegorical play themed to the process of summoning the living to death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a life Aug. 19 2007
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In this short, intense novel Roth introduces us to his unique interpretation of the medieval morality play with the same name. Instead of having "everyman" being led by Death to confront God's judgement, Roth's nameless protagonist addresses the reader from his freshly dug grave. Is he asking for acceptance for the bad that outweighed the good or merely indulging in justifying his life and actions?

We meet "him" as the subject during the brief funeral ceremony attended by a handful of "friends" and family. His sons stand aside, clearly not overly affected by his death. The reader gets a sketch of the man from his brother's eulogy and the words of his ex-wife and daughter. All three speak of a long-ago past, his youthful self as a brother in their beloved parents' house, of a happy time with his wife or as a young father. That was when life was innocent and wholesome - before death. The mourners have hardly turned away when the story shifts to the recounting the protagonist's life.

While Roth maintains a certain distance by writing in the third person, the following retrospective is very intimate and personal to his character. His meandering mind follows the different stages of his life, lingering with specifics and dialogs on some episodes, while brushing aside others that are deemed less important. In life, Roth's Everyman was certainly not your ordinary guy from down the street: he was a successful advertising director, wealthy and accepted by his peers. Abandoning his Jewish faith early on, he concentrated on the materialistic and hedonistic side of life. His three ex-wives were left primarily over his desire for sexual pursuits. Starting in middle age, heart problems became a concern and death lingered in the background.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  179 reviews
150 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Existential angst and Everyman. April 28 2006
By sb-lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book turned out to be more than a good read for me; it was an experience.

I need to start this review by saying I really like Philip Roth. Books like American Pastoral and The Human Stain and many of his older books were terrific reads for me.

This is a very short book. Normally Philip Roth can go on and on, (you know how often you can turn the page in a Roth book and see that the next two pages are all one paragraph....) but he rarely does that here. This book is very spare. Some reviews say too much so, but I disagree.

Summary, no spoilers:

The story first starts off with the protagonists funeral and then goes back in time with him narrating the story of his life.

We hear about his fear of death and his intense frustration with his increasing health problems. In essence, the human condition. And the narrator is a man with no religious convictions to soften the blow.

I have read some criticism that the character is not fully developed, but I disagree. Our narrator, (unnamed), tells us bits and pieces of his life from different times in his life. It is a thumbnail sketch of an existence. There is just enough detail so that it feels real and we can identify with his childhood exuberance and his middle-age wanderlust.

Roth manages to touch on so many universal truths and for me there were many times when I found myself nodding my head in understanding.

Yes, the book is short, very short, but perhaps because of this and because of Roth's skill as a writer, when I turned the last page I felt like I had read something much longer. It did not need one more word.

Highly recommended. It's the work of a great artist again sharing his observations about life in a way that makes us empathize.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caveat emptor. April 13 2007
By Richard B. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First the caveats. This is not a play; it is a novel. This is not an allegory; it is a realistic narrative. This is not about everyman; it is about a specific individual. Everyman is not a secularized Jewish New Yorker with a brother worth $50,000,000, three wives, and the opportunity to have hot sex with a Danish model. The life of the unnamed protagonist does, however, link with common aspects of human experience in striking and sometimes profound ways.

There are three major themes. The first is the exploration of the Scottish proverb that (put more decorously) an aroused male member has no conscience. When it follows its impulses the results are often ultimately unpleasant. The second, more important theme, is the illustration of Yeats's notion that as we age we increasingly feel as if our hearts--sick with desire--are "fastened to a dying animal." The book is a meditation on death, but more particularly a meditation upon the ways in which our bodies (some of our bodies; the protagonist's brother is healthy as well as rich) fail and betray us. The third is the importance of family and friends, but particularly family--a nexus of relationships that we see as important when we stop being selfish and begin to be wise.

The story is beautifully written, beautifully plotted, beautifully realized. It is grim but neither hollow nor depressing, erotic but not lurid. Most of all it is rich in details and descriptions. Highly recommended.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying April 29 2006
By Moose - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you're like me, and you consider Philip Roth to be one of the historic literary greats, it doesn't matter what I or anybody else has to say about Everyman: you're going to read this book. But I think you'll find Everyman to be less than satisfying. There's very little "astonishing" in this book, as there is in every page, if not in every paragraph, of Roth's best novels. On the subject of old age and imminent oblivion, Roth himself did a better and more artistic job in Sabbath's Theater and the novels narrated by Zuckerman (remember the old man in I Married a Communist?). Death is horrifying, but awesomely horrifying. Everyman is devoid of awe.

It's not apparent to me what Roth wants the reader to think of the main character. The title and numerous passages in the book indicate the guy exemplifies average, normal mankind, but he doesn't. As you would expect from a Roth protagonist, the Everyman character is abnormally incompetent at family life, and abnormally obsessed with silly sex. I'm not giving anything away here, but the guy craters a good marriage in favor of anal sex with an airhead. What are we supposed to make of that particular in a book that takes on existential themes? The good wife's furious denunciation of her husband are the best pages in the book: fluent, copious, intelligent rage, like something out of Greek tragedy.

As I said, you know Roth is a national treasure, you're going to read this book, and you should. But you won't re-read it, as you do your favorite Roth novels.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional and Thought Provoking Jan. 8 2007
By debra crosby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I just finished this book and, being a middle aged Baby Boomer, I was absolutely astounded at the feelings it roused in me. I know that my response will not be the same as that of a young person reading it and my advice to the younger reader would be to save this book and read it again in 20 years. The "everyman" of the title is the unnamed protagonist whose funeral opens the novel. We are taken back over his life to see his youthful gusto slowly erode into middle age beset by health problems he neither anticipated nor believed he deserved. His errors in judgment are tempered by his guilt and also by the knowledge that he probably would not have done anything differently if he had the chance. A study on what it feels like to still be young enough to want to enjoy life and yet to remember what it was like to be much more energetic and alive (I particularly related to the passages where he reminisced about swimming in the ocean, something I used to enjoy), this small book is provocative and thought-provoking. It states so well the angst of the middle-aged person who knows his life is now more than half over, and yet who doesn't want to think about that. Every day his body tells him, though, and he can't deny the truths of a harsh reality. The protagonist battles his own demons and compares his life to that of his hard working parents and his caring, and highly successful brother. His behaviour has alienated him from his ex-wives and most of his children, and although he seems to seek solitude, he yearns for intimacy. I was deeply moved by this book. It is so well written; I admire a writer who can pack so much emotion into so few words, and Philip Roth has done that very well.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of fight July 11 2006
By C. Ebeling - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Let's get this out of the way: EVERYMAN is not Moby Dick, Things Fall Apart or Crime and Punishment. It does not compare with Roth's own recent streak of novels that engage the historical and the personal. It is on its own out there, on a very different scale with a different fight. It is brave, accessible and eloquently crafted, as is the Roth way. It is the ripened vision that only aging can render and for that it stands alone not only in the author's repertoire but across contemporary fiction. I haven't read everything, that's for sure, but I've read a considerable amount and I can't remember another novelist saying, this is how we die when we have made it to the end, when we've outlived the possibilities of dying in wars or at the hands of others, or otherwise tragically young. Maybe someone else has, Roth just makes it seem new and original.

It's not that Roth's protagonist lives to very old age or outlived his generation. The book begins with his funeral, he having died during heart surgery in his early 70's. It then retreats back to his boyhood and moves forward, to look at an ordinary, flawed life through the lens of mortality. Many of the choices he makes, that propel him from one stage in life to the next, are either in defiance of or informed by the knowledge that not only can we die, we will.

Some complain that because the book is short, Roth was skimming. Uh-uh. There's a message in that medium. One well-known critic called his protagonist a "hollow man." Again, I beg to disagree: he is ordinary and recognizable for a reason and the information he serves up is interesting, provocative.
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