Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Everyman - 3M's Review


Philip Roth

182 pp.

Rating: 1

Everyman could have been a good book. If only. . . Had he not. . . I will get to those details later.

The book traces a 70-something man's history of his health problems, his three marriages, and his affairs. After doing some research on Roth, I wondered if it is a bit autobiographical. At the end of the novel, he regrets his life. His sons and his ex-wives hate him, and he doesn't get to spend time with the one person he does love, his daughter Nancy. He is even jealous of his brother's good health and stops calling him--a brother who has always been there for him. There are lessons to be learned from the novel, sure, but here is my objection to it.

He could have written this novel without the graphic s * x scenes. It really does border on p * r n. How such a le wd book could be awarded the PEN/Faulkner is beyond me. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

An NPR interview with Philip Roth about the book Everyman is here.


kookiejar said...

Is that your only gripe about it, Michelle? Personally, I don't mind graphic sexual content as long as it serves the story. Some authors just do it to get their jollies (I'm looking at you, John Updike), but frequently sex is a strong motivator for characters.

3M said...

I responded earlier, but it hasn't shown up yet so I'll try again.

What I am talking about goes beyond what is acceptable in literary fiction. To me, anyway. For instance, I really didn't like the sex scenes in The Time Traveler's Wife, but it wasn't totally and utterly offensive. This was. Maybe that's the author's point. Maybe he wanted that precise response from readers.

I admit I'm probably a little more prudish than some of our contributors, but I know I can't possibly be the only one who will be offended at the content in this book. It occurs during the latter part of the novel.

kookiejar said...

Why would Roth want to offend his readers? Does he want those characters to appear unsympathetic? Vladmir Nabakov made Professor Humbert in 'Lolita' a disgusting sexual deviant for a very specific purpose, do you think Roth had a similar motivation?

I wasn't planning on reading this before, but I have to admit, now I'm curious.

Wendy said...

I also left a comment on your blog, Michelle. I have never read a Roth book - they have never appealed to me or pulled me in. I really don't like books that are graphic only to shock; if the sex has a purpose and helps us undstand the characters better or adds to the plot, then fine. But, otherwise it just seems gratuitous. And I don't count myself as prudish :)

nessie said...

well sex scenes themselves dont put me off. sometimes it gives insight on the character and their mind. Does he see partners as an object? Does he become vulnerable? etc.

It sounds that Roth wanted to make this character even more offensive.

Ms. Jaroch said...

You know, I read that book last summer and can't even recall those racy scenes! To me, it was one long slog towards his death, which couldn't come soon enough for me (and it was a slim novel). I liked Roth's "The Plot Against America" but didn't like this one at all.

Maggie said...

This is so funny, but my husband and I can't even recall the sex in Everyman, just like Ms. Jaroch.

If it helps, I didn't like the book until I stepped away from it for a couple of weeks. I kept thinking he had no hope, poor thing. This is my take on Everyman.

Joy said...

There were s*x scenes for sure. There was also the "f" word used crudely (don't really know how else it would be used, but...). While I didn't care for those scenes (others may think nothing of them, but I don't even read romance novels - just not my genre of choice), I mainly didn't like the book due to its dismal topic. Blah.

Dewey said...

I mind excessively graphic sex in novels (or movies) but I didn't find this one particularly graphic. As far as I remember, the only sex mentioned was between him and his third wife (while he was still married to his second) and I thought it said plenty about his character -- that he was maybe having a midlife crisis, that his whole relationship with the model was about sex, that he risked his relationship with the wife who was by far most suited to him for sexual/romantic adventures with the model, etc.