Wednesday, 4 November 2009
The Humbling by Philip Roth
New novella by Philip Roth. Covers familiar Rothian territory, namely the identity of the self. This time the protagonist is an actor who has "lost his magic". He has lost his ability to be someone other than himself, and in doing so he has lost himself. As usual in Roth books, sex is the answer, the place where he can slough off any personal identity and become merely animal. In this book the sex is with a lesbian who eventually reverts to her original predilections in the actor's presence, donning a strap-on dildo, and thereby becoming no longer herself but a pretend man. The bed becomes a stage, and therefore the actor is robbed even here of the ability to be his primeval self. Roth is all ego and id. But he writes beautifully, beautifully, beautifully. However, among our senior novelists I do not think Mr Roth is maturing as well as Mr Trevor.