The Humbling by Philip Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Humbling is the story of Simon Axler, a reknown actor, who wakes up one morning having lost his ability to act. Everything comes crashing down on him - he loses his career, his wife, his self-esteem and his will to live in a short span of time.
Roth strikes at a deep fear - the fear of losing your sense of self when you grow old, when your hands and body can no longer do what you have made yourself into over the length of your years. What would you do then? Axler finds solace in the embrace of a woman, no longer young, uncertain as to her sexuality, and for a while they revel in it. He finds a new purpose - to remake this confused lesbian into a hot-blooded heterosexual woman, at her own request.
I liked the book, because it spoke strongly to me; because I understand the allure of the stage, because I act, and because I know the pain when you just fail so miserably. And it's not always under your control. I liked the simplicity of the writing and the reality (realism?) in it, the dirt under the fingernails, the crushing depression, the ignominy that we try to ignore in our lives on a daily basis. I understand its sad ending because sometimes things crush us so much that we cannot find a way to lift our heads up anymore.
But I didn't like where it went in the middle, as if everything in the world can be solved by having sex, as if all your life's problems can be somehow solved, or at least halted, once you find the right person in your life. Even though it was disproved at the end. Ha. I don't know where I'm headed with this.
I'm still a prude at heart, I suppose. There are things that need not be written and published, though I have to admit it served its point and it was not gratuitous.
So, it was a well-written story, compelling and heart-wrenching.
Just not my natural choice.
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Warning: Not for young readers. Or readers under 18.