So, I’m kicking off a bit of a Roth marathon here. I got the most recent volume of the Library of America’s edition of his work, so it has four short novels. I want to review the novels separately, however, since they were originally published that way. And then I might have a few words about the book as a whole after that. But anyway, Everyman is the first in this quartet of short novels; Roth originally wanted them published in one volume, but the publisher balked. This one is the shortest, at less than a hundred pages, and the simplest of the four. The book, which has no chapter divisions, begins with the funeral of its unnamed protagonist; we then flashback to get the details of his life as seen through his lifelong struggles with poor health. Roth has always been fascinated by aging and death; the older he gets the more explicitly these twin specters haunt his work. It’s written in a very simple, straightforward way, with none of Roth’s signature flourishes and there’s little in the way of plot as we work our way slowly through hospital stay after hospital stay. This has what I think is the desired effect, a sort of numbing despair. The book isn’t one of Roth’s masterpieces, but I found it very moving, as usual with Roth and I still have to highly recommend it. 4 stars.
tl;dr – quiet, sparse meditation on aging and death is slow and methodical, but comes with a powerful cumulative emotional effect. 4 stars.