By Philip Roth
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307472588, 160pp.)
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
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Simon Axler, one of the leading American stage actors of his generation, is now in his sixties and has lost his magic, talent, and assurance. His Falstaff and Peer Gynt and Vanya, all his great roles, “are melted into air, into thin air.” When his wife leaves him, and after a stint at a mental hospital, he retires to his upstate New York country house and hopes for deliverance, which arrives in the form of the lithe, vibrant, and ever-subversive Pegeen Stapleford, the daughter of old friends and 25 years his junior.
In this tight, surprising narrative told with Roth’s inimitable urgency, bravura, and gravity, we confront the terrifying fragility of all our life’s performances.
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians’ Prize for “the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004.” Recently Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American novelist to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize.
“Elegant and brutal. . . . Direct and urgent, a taut and controlled fever-dream that demands to be experienced at a single sitting. . . . [He] is a master.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Convincing and powerful. . . . At 76, [Roth] is still a literary colossus whose ability to inspire, astonish and enrage his readers is undiminished.” —Elaine Showalter, The Washington Post
“Philip the great, Philip the audacious, the voracious, writes of bottomless hunger—emotional, sexual, existential. When you hear about a new Philip Roth novel, you have to read it. . . . Roth still has his chops.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Masterful. . . . Roth's best work in years; sentence for sentence, paragraph for paragraph, he's still the most readable serious writer we've got. . . . It's pleasant to read a book this tight, this efficiently constructed.” —The Huffington Post
“Blooms brightly in the extraordinarily fecund garden of his late work. . . . A swift but piercing, uncluttered but nuanced morality tale.” —“Books We Like,” NPR
“The Humbling unfolds in three acts of pristine economy, dramatic lucidity and unstoppable narrative momentum. . . . The dispassion that has always marked Roth’s narrative voice sometimes achieves the depth and simplicity of the best music or poetry. . . . The laughter keeps getting quieter and more knowing.” —The Plain Dealer
“A vitally important addition to Philip Roth’s already amazing body of work.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Artfully spry. . . . With punchy prose. . . . [The Humbling] is Roth’s best work since Sabbath’s Theater. It’s Goodbye, Columbus for big kids.” —The Dallas Examiner
“The novel . . . finds traction in familiar Rothian interrogations—of the self’s deviousness, the impossible murkiness of motive, and the performative nature of identity.” —The New Yorker
“Roth is a master of pacing. . . . [He is] a great writer, a great anatomist of passion. His admirers will find much to admire in The Humbling.” —The Oregonian
“Succinct and attention-grabbing. . . . Though the novels are shorter these days, they are no less provocative than his early ones.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“A daring experiment in late style.” —Slate
“The Humbling should be read as a kind of Mortality Trilogy with The Dying Animal and Everyman, two other autumnal works from this great writer. Short, bitter and bracing, they lend the courage to see and endure what is.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Roth at his rawest. . . . Slim, bleak and sexy. . . . Roth’s writing flows gracefully.” —USA Today
“Roth writes movingly. . . . The compact intensity of Roth’s late fictions suits well the stark truths he explores in The Humbling. Here, he strips a man’s life to its essential movements, onto the light of the stage and off to the darkness of the wings when the curtains come down.” —The Post and Courier
“At 76 [Roth] is still leaving scorch marks on the page.” —Bloomberg News
“Forceful, haunting and unnervingly effective.” —The Toronto Star
“Compelling. . . . It takes an artist as gravely ludicrous as Roth to create a body of work in which intertextuality comes to be a brute condition of existence itself.” —The Times Literary Supplement [UK]
“A wild, skittering erotic scherzo. . . . Anyone who admires the tormented subjectivity, existential dread, winnowed language and corrosive gallows humour of, say, Thomas Bernhard and Samuel Beckett should feel at home in late Roth. . . . Yes, The Humbling takes his hero down to a naked place where self and skill evaporate: the word ‘nobody’ tolls like a Beckettian bell. But the show for Simon, for Roth, for fiction must go on.” —The Independent [UK]
“Masterly. . . . Powerfully dramatic. . . . We should be grateful that Roth continues to maintain his concentration on the terrible facts. . . . [The Humbling] is the most to-the-point, the most necessary work its author has published since The Dying Animal.” —London Review of Books
“Gripping. . . . The intense realism of some of the scenes is shocking and unforgettable. . . . Worthy of a David Lynch film. . . . [Roth] is the most courageous writer alive, and this is another brave move.” —The Guardian [UK]