Friday, March 18, 2011

Five best: novelists on illness

Lionel Shriver's books include Orange Prize–winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, Ordinary Decent Criminals, and So Much for That.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novelists on illness.

One entry on the list:
by Philip Roth (2006)

A novel about an elderly man within spitting distance of his grave inevitably has to address mortality, but in "Everyman" death is a reflecting pool. This elegant novel shimmers with the mysteries and regrets of a whole life. Philip Roth's unnamed protagonist has the usual broken marriage and difficulties with his kids, but his central failed relationship is the one with his own body. He has had six cardiac surgeries in as many years; a seventh would probably kill him. Meanwhile, friends drop like flies: "Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre." Prolonged illness's "deadliest trap," Roth writes, is "the contortion of one's character." Thus the protagonist loathes his once adored older brother simply because the schmuck is so enragingly healthy. Unexpectedly moving, "Everyman" is about a treachery that awaits us all. Spouses may stay true, but bodies are universally faithless.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue