By Philip Roth
Random House Large Print (2006) ISBN-13: 978-0739326961
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - May 3, 2010
On December 12, 1969, the great writer Saul Bellow wrote to Philip Roth and described him as "one of our best and most interesting writers…. I was greatly stimulated and entertained by your last novel." Whether Philip Roth is writing about sexual experiences, as he does in virtually every book, or about illness and dying, as he does in this volume, readers find the book fascinating even if they abhor descriptions of sex, illness, and dying, because Roth portrays the events so unusually well. His language stands out like a beautiful young girl in a red dress strolling on a dreary dark street.
The title Everyman is drawn from the classic fifth century allegorical play, which discusses the ultimate end, death, of everyman. This short drama is a modern version of the ancient play. We are introduced to our everyman at his funeral, a pathetic affair because it lacked any real love of the deceased, except by his brother, who he only saw when he came to help him, and his daughter, whom he barely knew. Roth describes him as a man who wandered through life with no apparent purpose, like most other people, with failure after failure and no understanding how to stop them. He had three wives and countless mistresses, but each marriage was unsuccessful and the mistresses did not last long. His two sons of his first marriage hated him.
The story, in short, like the ancient play, is an allegory of the pathetic way that most men go through life not really enjoying it, yet fearful that it will end.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.