Rusty's Reviews > Everyman

Everyman by Philip Roth
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Aug 02, 12

Read in April, 2007

Roth recently argued in an interview that writers tend to loose their skills as they age; Everyman is a fantastic example of the exception that proves the rule. Indeed, this text approaches Roth's most courageous and ambitious of efforts. Here we have Roth dealing with death in the most authentic and fearless fashion possible. How many authors have the courage to admit to their greatest fear--in this case, that an artist's work will not stand up to the test of time and that he will therefore be relegated to the status of an average-everyday Everyman. Perhaps the greatest human desire is immortality. For the artist, immortality is ideally achieved by becoming a permanent member of the cannon. In Roth's case, there can be no doubt.

But Roth shows why he will go down as one of the very best American writers EVER in dealing with what may be the one thing more scary than the extinction of our physical existence: its continuation as something unrecognizable as one's own. In this sense, Everyman represents the apotheosis of what Kierkegaard meant by the term "despair", namely, the fact that death will not come, not on your terms, not in time to spare us. I would argue that the greatest accomplishment of the text is to so vividly convey the psychological ravishes inflicted by having to live in a body, which is no longer recognizably one's own. The greatest cruelty of the death that approaches ever slower as one ages are the very signs of its approach: physical deterioration possesses the face that death lacks. Roth makes it painfully clear in Everyman just how much more foreign that face becomes with each day that the Reeper fails to draw your lot. A beautiful, heart wrenching work
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