Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review - The Dying Animal by Philip Roth

First, let me say that the first and last book I had ever read by Philip Roth was The Human Stain, followed by many years of steering away from his work because, as I now realize, I did not understand him. True, Roth is considered by many to be a pillar of English literature and recommended reading when one wants to read books of a "higher" nature. Yet, I could not understand him and therefore, avoided him and read other books.

However, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I decided to return to Mr. Roth and see if perhaps, with Time, my mind was ready for him. So, I chose one of his smaller novels, The Dying Animal, and read it in two days with much joy and literary bliss.

David Kepesh is a sixty something TV culture critic and lecturer at a college in New York who is quite the Casanova. He loves women and is not ashamed of it. However, when he meets the lovely Consuela Castillo, his world is turned upside down and forced into a sexual awakening that even he was not prepared for.

This slim novel reminded me of one of my favourite classic novels - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: an older man who is taunted, teased and seduced by a younger woman who plays the part of the nymph, the seductress and Muse in whom he pledges his eternal devotion to. There is no love only lust and yet, just like Humbert, Kepesh is drawn ever deeper until it is too late to regain the piece of him he willingly sacrificed.

I actually enjoyed reading the story from Kepesh's point of view; it was bitter, elitist and sometimes quite funny and I actually hoped that he would find a sense of redemption through his tryst with Consuela. When he did experience it, it was not in the way I had imagined it and my respect for Roth as an author increased.

While this may not read like a book review per se, I still wanted to talk about the novel and my appreciation of it. I will definitely read the other Kepesh book entitled The Professor of Desire and return to his hedonistic world.

Happy Reading!

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