It may be that I'm looking forward to grad school with a certain dread of having to read textbooks rather than novels and creative non-fiction again. Or it may simply be my autumnal nesting instinct getting me into a ravenous frenzy of book consumption. Whichever it is, if either, of these reasons, I am consuming books at a fast clip.
My most recent meal was of the book Everyman by Philip Roth. I found this little gem on the "Former Bestsellers" table at Borders and snagged it for $5.99. (Sorry, Mr. Roth, I realize this cuts deeply into your royalties, but I couldn't help myself. I love a bargain!) It's a non-descript book, small. Its cover is black with white, block lettering, although some graphic designer somewhere got paid a little sum for that design. It represents the starkness and simplicity of the story. Like the title, the book reflects a universal theme of a life lived start to finish with one interesting twist--the protagonist suffers a run of bad luck as to his health.
At first, I though, "Oh, I'm not sure about this book. Do I really want to do this to myself?" After all, my own health has been maddeningly frail the last two years. Why would I want to read about someone else's suffering in hospitals and behind closed doors where he eventually drives away his only brother, one who has hale and hearty health and who has done nothing but love him, out of jealousy and bitter envy? Why would I want to read about the ex-wife whose migraines were so bad that she sometimes required a house call? Why would I want to read about Millicent Kramer, a student in the man's art class who had to sometimes lie down on the floor because the spinal pain got so bad that she could do nothing else?
Because, my friends, this book is a prize. The prose is so fluid and beautiful. An example:
"...had he run to painting to deliver himself from the knowledge that you are born to live and you die instead?"
Or this one, in which he is staring out into the sea from the beach on which he grew up:
"Or was the best of old age just that--the longing for the best of boyhood, for the tubular sprout that was then his body and that rode the waves from way out where they began to build, rode them with his arms pointed like an arrowhead and the skinny rest of him following behind like the arrow's shaft, rode them all the way in to where his rib cage scraped against the tiny sharp pebbles and jagged clamshells and pulverized seashells at th edge of the shore and he hustled to his feet and hurriedly turned and went lurching through the low surf until it was knee high and deep enough to plunge in and begin swimming madly out to the rising breakers--into the advancing, green Atlantic, rolling unstoppably toward him like the obstinate fact of the future--and, if he was lucky, make it there in time to catch the next big wave and then the next and the next and the next until from the low slant of inland sunlight glittering across the water he knew it was time to go."
It is a definitely un-Hemingway-esque sentence but notice the imagery, the flow, the taste of the sea in your mouth as you read it. Mr. Roth, I am humbled. I'm not worthy!
The protagonist is never named, allowing him to be - truly - Everyman. Insert name here. He suffers one health issue after another, puzzling over why him and not his brother, why must he continue to have crises though he has been a swimmer and a runner and a successful man? How is it that he was brought to the brink so many times?
You'll ask yourself these things and more as you read this book.
Other reads of late:
- The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
- A Member of the Family - Cesar Millan
- The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks
- The Purpose-Driven Life - Rick Warren (still reading a chapter a day, as it specifies)
Peace - D
(If you are a voracious reader like me, check out Book Swappers to borrow books instead of pouring the money -- you're trying madly to conserve -- into your local bookstore!)