“The Humbling” is yet another of Roth’s seemingly perennial short novellas. Yet, Roth did it again; he packed more into 140 pages than most authors can manage to fill in 410 pages. This new novel centers on Simon Axler, a veteran stage actor who loses his ability to act – even as himself, or, more accurately, who he believes himself to be.
As a novel “The Humbling” is somewhat problematic with stilted, stagey dialogue and sex scenes that aren’t gratuitous so much as just plain uncomfortable to read. As a character study, though, this is a fascinating piece about a man caught in a web of doubt and fear, a larger than life character torn between suicide and self-fulfillment.