Philip Roth's Everyman has been very widely reviewed. Here I just want to register what struck me about it in the closing pages. The novel tells of a man's life through his medical history. It opens with his funeral and ends with his death, and in between we are taken through different stages in, aspects of, the sense of his mortality. There's nowhere - conceptually, emotionally - to look away to. Stark. Unremitting. This is a strategic passage towards the end, when the book's central protagonist has just completed three phone calls to bereaved and dying friends:
[W]hat he'd learned was nothing when measured against the inevitable onslaught that is the end of life. Had he been aware of the mortal suffering of every man and woman he happened to have known during all his years of professional life, of each one's painful story of regret and loss and stoicism, of fear and panic and isolation and dread, had he learned of every last thing they had parted with that had once been vitally theirs and of how, systematically, they were being destroyed, he would have had to stay on the phone through the day and into the night, making another hundred calls at least. Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre.I won't give any more away about how Roth brings the novel to its conclusion. But despite its inexorable trajectory, something that happens - or at least that happened to me - is the powerful experience of what the narrator refers to at one point as the 'fullness' whose loss is in prospect, the unfathomable depth of life. The book is bleak indeed, but it is, towards the end, against this background: of the glory of the world.