Another brilliant short novel by Philip Roth
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for 'the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004'. Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award 'for a body of work ... of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship' and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose 'scale of achievement over a sustained career ... places him or her in the highest rank of American literature'. In 2011 Roth won the International Man Booker Prize. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.
Roth's latest reflection on sex, aging, and death switches from Roth stand-in Nathan Zuckerman to fading actor Simon Axler. Convinced his talents are ebbing away, Simon embarks on an ill-fated romance with a young lesbian by way of what? Consolation? Distraction? Masochism? The usually reliable Dick Hill falters, however, flattening Roth's characters and smothering some of the novel's metaphysical notes. He is particularly artless with Roth's female characters, reducing them to two-dimensional harpies or simps. Hill might have been better off skipping the falsetto tones and concentrating on mastering the subtleties of the story. A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 10). (Nov.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Simon Axler wowed theater critics with his outsize talent and persona for 40 years, taming major roles from Shakespeare to Chekov to Miller, but one evening at the Kennedy Center, he suffers a meltdown so terrifying and complete that he consigns himself to an institution for a month of group, art, and physical therapies. The blockage cannot be explained away through normal psychiatric channels, so Axler retreats to his country estate, where he fantasizes about the shotgun in the attic, unable to summon the courage to play the role of a man committing suicide. An unexpected visit from Pegeen Stapleford, the daughter of old friends and 25 years his junior, sets the stage for a recurring Roth theme (The Dying Animal, Exit Ghost), the pathos of the aging artist seeking revitalization through an all-encompassing sexual liaison. Verdict Roth, the incomparable recipient of every major literary award, has written a sorrowful novella. Those of us who believe that he is one of the greatest living American writers will continue to do so, but if 60 is the new 40, readers may tire of his bleak insistence that artistic productivity ends so early. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/09.]-Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
A literary colossus, whose ability to inspire, astonish and enrage
his readers is undiminished' * Washington Post *
There is a clarity, almost a ruthlessness, to his work, which makes the experience of reading any of his books a bracing, wild ride... He is the last of the giants * The Times *
Roth...knows no limits, which is part of the fun of reading him * New Stateman *
While the other big beasts of his literary generation lost it one by one, Roth has enjoyed a flowering of late form barely seen since Yeats. * Literary Review *
Roth is no longer a novelist of comic exuberance, but of thoughtful meditation about life and increasingly death; he is our surviving laureate of lateness. His new work will not detain you long, but it will linger * Telegraph *