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by Philip Roth

Download The Humbling (Import) epub
ISBN: 0224087932
ISBN13: 978-0224087933
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Philip Roth
Language: English
Publisher: Jonathon Cape; 1st edition (October 1, 2009)
Pages: 140 pages
ePUB size: 1366 kb
FB2 size: 1972 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 621
Other Formats: doc lrf mbr lrf

Roth is my *favorite* contemporary writer, second to no one. He deserves a Nobel Prize for American Pastoral, which I have read four times and his novellas at least twice (The Humbling, Nemesis, Indignation, etc.). Everything he writes is extraordinary and can rip your soul out, so be prepared. But, as Kafka wrote: 'A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us'. Most of Roth's books accomplish exactly that. His psychological insight is extraordinary. I love reading him.
Philip Roth's later period (mid-90s onward) has been a remarkable fruition of wisdom, wry humor, confidence, and refined talent. He is probably America's best living writer, and an all-time great. Although I like the early stuff ("Goodbye, Columbus", "Portnoy" etc.), reading "American Pastorial", "Indignation", "Nemesis" -- really anything since "AP", including...the first section of this short novel -- is to be enthralled by a great writer's sharp insight on American culture and history through prose fiction. That includes the first part of this book, where a renowned actor suddenly loses his ability to act during a performance. His dealilng with the aftermath is scary, bizarre, disturbing... and also slyly (and sometimes screamingly) funny.
Then, it's like Roth grafts on another story and attempts to retrofit the actor's circumstances in. The result is an embarrassing, unbelievable hyper-sexed affair w/ a younger woman (who's also a lesbian, who's also the daughter of old friends, who's also... well, who cares?)
Steamy Ibis
'The Humbling' is a novel about everything that Roth has been writing about since he published `The Plot Against America' (TPAA) in 2004: aging, death, lust in old age, betrayal, loss, grief. And while he will probably never write a long novel like TPAA again, 'The Humbling' is as good as anything he's written since then.

It's true that `The Humbling' is very brief. In fact it may have less words than anything Roth's published in the fifty years since 'Goodbye, Columbus'. But it's still a very good read, better written than his last book ('Indignation'), and more entertaining than either of the other two that Roth published after TPAA. Some bad reviews of 'The Humbling' that I've read had lowered my expectations so much, which may have helped me appreciate it, but I really believe that this is a fine work.

'The Humbling' reminds me of a couple of similarly short, focused novels of Roth's last decade ('The Dying Animal' from 2001 and 'Everyman', 2006); and seems to hit the main themes of those two. It has the same kind of tension and steady movement toward a mysterious conclusion -- and the same commitment on Roth's part to profound honesty and well-paced storytelling. He is "painting what he sees" here in terms of both human behavior and the human heart, which is what good artists are supposed to do, whatever talent remains in their own hands, heart, and mind.

Though there are portentious references in it to Anton Chekhov's plays and the lead character is an actor, 'The Humbling' reads more like a short novel by Ivan Turgenev. Like Chekhov, Turgenev was a great Russian writer from the 19th century, who was highly influential as a prose stylist. Roth's new work is arranged in the style and tragic-romantic mood of Turgenev's 'First Love', 'Asya', and 'Spring Torrents', which also deal with the difficulties of infatuation, inter-generational or cross-cultural love, and the compulsions of lust. Those works are very well known and loved in Russia, and like 'The Humbling' they are are all very honest and mature, and are crafted with great respect for the relationships within literature which interlink the tool of language, the art of storytelling, and reality. If you like 'The Humbling', you might enjoy these works by Turgenev, which are roughly as long as 'The Humbling'.

And if you like Roth's past work and you accept that he's no longer willing or able to write long novels, you won't be disappointed in the 'Humbling'.
The Humbling is interesting, but hardly great. It's not as deep and profound as American Pastoral or The Human Stain, nor as funny as Portnoy's Complaint or The Great American Novel. The beginning and the ending are convincing and moving. But the middle was cliched. Well written cliches, but still cliches and unconvincing. It the work of a great writer, but a greater writer, who like is character, is struggling to recapture the magic os his art.

Fortunately, Roth came back strong in his next novel, Nemesis, a great novel.