The Humbling: Book summary and reviews of The Humbling by Philip Roth

The Humbling

By Philip Roth

The Humbling
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2009,
    160 pages.

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Book Summary

Everything is over for Simon Axler, the protagonist of Philip Roth’s startling new book. One of the leading American stage actors of his generation, now in his sixties, he has lost his magic, his talent, and his assurance. His Falstaff and Peer Gynt and Vanya, all his great roles, "are melted into air, into thin air." When he goes onstage he feels like a lunatic and looks like an idiot. His confidence in his powers has drained away; he imagines people laughing at him; he can no longer pretend to be someone else. "Something fundamental has vanished." His wife has gone, his audience has left him, his agent can’t persuade him to make a comeback.

Into this shattering account of inexplicable and terrifying self-evacuation bursts a counterplot of unusual erotic desire, a consolation for a bereft life so risky and aberrant that it points not toward comfort and gratification but to a yet darker and more shocking end. In this long day’s journey into night, told with Roth's inimitable urgency, bravura, and gravity, all the ways that we convince ourselves of our solidity, all our life's performances—talent, love, sex, hope, energy, reputation—are stripped off.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Roth observes much...in little space, and the svelte narrative amounts to an unsparing confrontation of self." - Publishers Weekly

"Roth, the incomparable recipient of every major literary award, has written a sorrowful novella. Those of us who believe that he is one of the greatest living American writers will continue to do so, but if 60 is the new 40, readers may tire of his bleak insistence that artistic productivity ends so early." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Allusive, elusive and peppered with mordant wit to a downright Strindbergian degree—one of Roth's most eloquent, painful and memorable books." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Philip Roth Author Biography

Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933. He attended Rutgers University before receiving his B.A. at Bucknell and his M.A. from the University of Chicago. He served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1956. He has taught English at a number of universities including the University of Pennsylvania where he was writer-in-residence for fifteen years. Philip Roth's first book, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, was published in 1959 and won the National Book Award for fiction. Patrimony (1991) was the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Operation Shylock (1993) of the PEN/Faulkner Award, Sabbath's Theater (1995) of the National Book Award. Philip Roth lives in Connecticut; American Pastoral was his twentieth book. In 2005, he became the third living ...

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