David Kepesh is portrayed as an unapologetic brainy sophisticate and borderline sexual predator, a survivor of the 1960's who is a living advocate for a free-love ethic. His art is sex, not love: “Why but for the pleasure do I choose to live as I do, imposing as few constraints on my independence as possible?”
Yet he becomes seriously obsessed--attached--to a beautiful young woman, the daughter of Cuban exiles, who for him is "a true work of art." While fixated on her bodily beauty with monumental breasts, she later becomes "as old as him" as she reveals to him that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has to have a radical mastectomy.
The story takes a serious turn after Kepesh's best male friend and colleague, George O’Hearn, dies only after awakening from a comma some twelve hours before his death and kisses everyone in the room. Kepesh informs us, but “we all knew that what we had witnessed was the last amazing act of George’s life.”
I primarily read The Dying Animal with an ongoing curiosity about the aging male psyche negotiating the aging process and found it instructive along with the Freudian undercurrents describing David Kepesh's experiences. The book’s title, taken from Yeats’ poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” comes clearly into focus: “Consume my heart away; sick with desire/ And fastened to a dying animal...”