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Description - The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth

"The Anatomy Lesson is a ferocious, heartfelt book - lavish with laughs and flamboyant inventions". (John Updike). With his fortieth birthday receding into the distance, along with his hairline and his most successful novel, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction - pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, finds himself physically unable to write a line. He treks from one doctor to another, but none can find a cause for the pain and nobody can assuage it. Could it be, he wonders to himself, that the cause of the pain is nothing less than the books he has written? As he grapples with this possibility, he tries an onslaught of painkillers, then vodka, and finally marijuana. He contemplates threatening the pain with suicide, attempting to scare it out of his system. He toys with the prospect of a dramatic career change. What will it take for the pain to finally leave him alone?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099476610
ISBN-10: 0099476614
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 20mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Oct-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth

US Kirkus Review » Zuckerman in pain - physical pain, psychic pain, existential pain - as Roth continues to follow his nakedly, overbearingly autobiographical alter-ego: what was high art in The Ghost Writer became a glossy, so-so hybrid in Zuckerman Unbound. . . and has now become something intermittently powerful or funny, strangely fascinating, yet grimly embarrassing, It's 1973. Zuckerman, 40, author of the notorious Carnovsky (read Portnoy's Complaint), is still haunted by his father's death-bed curse, his brother's hatred, and now his mother's death. He hasn't been able to write a decent page in months and months. He has "lost his subject." He's losing his hair. Above all, Zuckerman has lost his health, having become half-immobilized by chronic neck and back pain: he has tried a grisly litany of doctors, including an analyst; he spends much of the day on his back on a "playmat," numbed with vodka and Percodan, ministered to (sexually and otherwise) by a quartet of girlfriends. And his only zest comes in brooding furiously over an attack on him by one Milton Appel (clearly modeled on Irving Howe) - recalling Appel's favorable review of Zuckerman's first fiction (near-exact paraphrase of Howe's actual words about Goodbye, Columbus), stewing over this recent abuse, arguing with it, indulging in unspoken tirades of retaliatory invective. How, then, can Zuckerman escape the "selfness of pain," the selfness of his writing, all this dead-end writhing, this entrapment in the past? By becoming a doctor, he thinks. So eventually he takes off to visit an old doctor-chum in Chicago, looking for reed-school-admission help. But by now he is flying from his drug/booze saturation: he hires a limo, using the name Milton Appel, "kike-pornographer," supposed editor of Lickety Split; in this role, he subjects the woman chauffeur to ugly tour-de-force fantasy-arias about porn, Hugh Hefner, Jewishness, "Appel's" life; and he winds up running amok in a Jewish cemetery - nearly throttling a grieving old man ("the last of the fathers demanding to be pleased"), fracturing his own head on a footstone, landing in the hospital. . . yet still determined to be an M.D., to "unchain himself from a future as a man apart and escape the corpus that was his." Roth's talent for half-comic ghastliness flickers vigorously throughout this nightmare-novel; his bravura wordsmanship - fine-tuned, orchestrated colloquiallism - gets ample (if contrived) exposure. But, in terms of craft, this may be Roth's weakest fiction: repetitious, unshapely, registering as a belabored short story - with a more-of-the-same ending that doesn't seem like the close of a novel, let alone the close of a trilogy. And, more important, the autobiographical premise breaks down badly here - as Roth shifts constantly, uncomfortably, between self-pity and self-deprecation, repentance and defiance, occasionally lifting the proceedings onto a more resonant level (through an almost Kafkaesque treatment of pain-as-metaphor). . . but more often sinking down into the petulance, pettiness, and sentimentality of one writer's woes and feuds. Still, if some readers will be lured (or put off) by Roth's roman ?? clef specifics, others will be drawn to the Chinese-box ironies (Zuckerman yearning to escape "self" in '73, Roth at the summit of "self" in '83) - and to the squirming spectacle of a writer trying to find a bearable approach for fictional self-examination, trying to defend himself and crucify himself at the same time. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Philip Roth

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, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. 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 prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award 'for a body of work...of enduring originality and consummate craftmanship' and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose 'scale of achievement over a sustained career...places him or her in the highest rank of American literature.' Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. The last of the eight volumes is scheduled for publication in 2013.

Books By Philip Roth

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American Pastoral by Philip Roth
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Indignation by Philip Roth
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