Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Humbling by Philip Roth

No one dissects, probes, and analyses a character’s angst, fears, hopes, and dreams like Philip Roth. This “three-act play” involves three stages in the life of Simon Axler, a well-known, well-respected actor of stage and screen.

This novella might compare well to an epic tale in the mold of Joseph Campbell’s theory of a hero’s journey. In Act One, Axler separates from his talent; in Act Two, a helper tries to smooth the path to the climax of the tale; and Act Three is the “return,” the denouement of his life. Roth has skillfully taken the reader on a close examination of the later stages of Simon’s life when all seems lost.

This work of fiction contains graphic scenes of sexually activity – in one case, the scene disturbed me a great deal. In another, only the most tender words and images found their way onto the page. Another scene perplexed me, but, at the same time, titillated me just a bit. These scenes are definitely rated NC-17. Roth always has some sexual activity in his novels, but these are more intense than most others he has written. I won’t offer a sample, but take my word for it – Philip Roth is a master of description, and his skills are nearly at the top in this tight, brief story. Four stars

--Chiron, 11/09/09

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