Daniel's Reviews > Everyman

Everyman by Philip Roth
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's review
Nov 01, 2008

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bookshelves: first-edition, 2008
Read in November, 2008

For its first half, "Everyman" reads a bit like a condensed version of an earlier Philip Roth novel, something that could be titled "The Anatomy Lesson: Only the Medical Parts." "Everyman"'s initial focus on its protagonist's health problems, almost to the exclusion of everything else, recalls the earlier book's concentration on Nathan Zuckerman's illness.

"The Anatomy Lesson," however, had a much wider scope than "Everyman" initially seems to. About two-thirds the way in, though, "Everyman" becomes more of a typical Roth novel. The story isn't told chronologically, and Roth eventually finds his way back to his protagonist's sexual adventures earlier in life. This is Roth, after all, so there is a lot of sex, and it's inevitably with attractive, young women who throw themselves at our hero.

"Everyman" does depart from the Roth formula by giving his protagonist a happy, almost problem-free childhood, and a good relationship with his parents. It's in his relationships with his own children, particularly his sons, that the typical Rothian family strife kicks in. Roth gives little space over to these problems and speaks of them mostly in generalities though, so they lack the specificity of the conflicts in his earlier novels.

It's this lack of specificity that is "Everyman"'s biggest weakness. It's no secret what Roth is trying to do here -- he doesn't give his protagonist a name, and the "Everyman" of the title refers both to the name of the jewelry shop owned by our hero's father, and to our hero himself -- but that doesn't mean the tactic works particularly well or was needed. The device ends up calling a lot of attention to itself, while adding little to the novel's story or its messages.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I think I read this book around the same time as you and remember absolutely nothing about it.

Daniel It's not a particularly memorable book, Jon. I think I remember writing this review better than I remember the book itself.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I will remember your review better than the book as well.

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