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The Dying Animal by Phillip Roth


Some books have that particular pervading smell. This book is one of them. It is what I would come to think as entering a men's club. I cannot escape the sense of being inside a masculine study filled with leather bound books, the rustling of papers in a corner oak table, a lingering smell of tobacco left on an ashtray. That is how it was reading this book.

A friend lent it to me and considering her tastes (which is a bit opposite of mine), I thought it is a bit as insane as she. And I meant that in an overwhelmingly brilliant way.

Written in a long monologue, like an endless stream of soliloquies, an aging David Kepesh dishes out the finer points of his life and his involvement with a young woman named Consuela Castillo while touching on other topics in between. Opinions about politics, growing old, social structure, war, etc are laid out along with the sexual revolution of the sixties, women, love and other musings.

Phillip Roth writes in a rich arresting texture, biting the consciousness with rapt attention. The thing is like one big boiling pot of American literature. It's the first time I read him and I must say I understand the appeal in a literary sense.

Passages disturb the thoughts and at the same time fascinate them. Sentences run in long structures (all those commas) you get astray if not careful. The rest is somewhat a canvas for debate (either you agree with him or not). But there is beauty and power in its prose. It drew me unwittingly, like an avid student reluctant to end a class lecture.

If you reach the end of the character's prattles and still think somewhat torn or lost, don't get too discouraged. After all, it is just ramblings of a dying animal, so to speak.

Title: The Dying Animal
Author: Phillip Roth
Genre: Contemporary, American Literature
Published: 2002
Publisher: Vintage
Rating:  (3 cups - Though rich and powerful, I'm still on the fence with it. Undecided if I thought it brilliant or just plain old angst.)

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