Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dying Animal, by Philip Roth

I had the good fortune of discovering Bellow before Philip Roth. It saved me a lot of tedious reading.

But I took a chance on The Dying Animal because of my affection for Elegy, a lovely film based on the book. Sadly the novel suffers from the same shortcoming that ruins all of Roth's books for me: the overwhelming sense that it's been constructed to show me the light.

A bully-pulpit characterized most of my early reading—not uncommon for an American reader, I suppose, especially one who grew up, as I did, in a religious home. In flight from the pulpit I discovered the novel. In all the great novels of my adolescence—Huck Finn, Crime and Punishment, Heart of Darkness—I heard for the first time the voice of uncertainty.

My god, it was so lovely, the Novel's not-knowing. That loveliness gave me permission to be curious. It gave me permission to love the world.

I read novels less than ever, now, sadly. If you're still reading them, don't bother with this one.

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