Everyman - Philip Roth

Great, moving, and a masterpiece

Book Review by Keir Hind | 15 Jun 2006
Philip Roth is possibly the most esteemed American writer alive today. Roth published his first novel in 1959 and has gone from strength to strength since then. His period of greatest achievement began in 1997 with 'American Pastoral'. Or was it 'Sabbath's Theatre' in 1995? Or perhaps 'Operation Shylock' in 1993? In any case, Roth's latest novel, 'Everyman', continues this run of great works. The book takes its title from a medieval morality play where death comes for Everyman, whose comment, "Oh, Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind," Roth considers to be, "the first great line in English drama." The novel starts with the funeral of an unnamed man (Jewish and from New Jersey, like the author) and explores his experiences with death during his life. "Should he ever write an autobiography, he'd call it The Life and Death of a Male Body," Roth writes, and though this may seem grim, Roth's wonderful prose style (which resembles Saul Bellow taking dictation from Henry James) carries the book smoothly to its conclusion where, in an unexpected fashion, we realise that this Everyman has come to terms with death. A great, moving masterpiece. [Keir Hind]
Listen to an NPR radio interview with Philip Roth about this novel. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5376625