Fiction. Literature. HTML: David Kepesh is white-haired and over sixty, an eminent TV culture critic and star lecturer at a New York college, when he meets Consuela Castillo, a decorous, well-mannered student of twenty-four, the daughter of wealthy Cuban exiles, who promptly puts his life into erotic disorder. Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when he left his wife and child, Kepesh has experimented with living what he calls an "emancipated manhood," beyond the reach of family or a mate. Over the years he has refined that exuberant decade of protest and license into an orderly life in which he is both unimpeded in the world of eros and studiously devoted to his aesthetic pursuits. But the youth and beauty of Consuela, "a masterpiece of voluptÃ©" undo him completely, and a maddening sexual possessiveness transports him to the depths of deforming jealousy. The carefree erotic adventure evolves, over eight years, into a story of grim loss. What is astonishing is how much of America's post-sixties sexual landscape is encompassed in THE DYING ANIMAL. Once again, with unmatched facility, Philip Roth entangles the fate of his characters with the social forces that shape our daily lives. And there is no character who can tell us more about the way we live with desire now than David Kepesh, whose previous incarnations as a sexual being were chronicled by Roth in THE BREAST and THE PROFESSOR OF DESIRE. A work of passionate immediacy as well as a striking exploration of attachment and freedom, THE DYING ANIMAL is intellectually bold, forcefully candid, wholly of our time, and utterly without precedentâ??a story of sexual discovery told about himself by a man of seventy, a story about the power of eros and the fact of death.
In short: this is not a book about the fantasies of elderly men, neither the protagonist's nor Roth's. It does Roth an injustice to read it in that way.
At first, the novel seems to be somewhat out of place with the other two books, adopting a voice that (presumably under the pretense of old age) is blunter and cruder than we might expect. Just
The tales and justifications of Kepesh's many "aesthetic" affairs are interlaced with the somewhat less-than-interesting saga of his relationship with Consuela Castillo, a story that only gains momentum as the novel reaches its end and the transformation occurs, revealing itself as a work far more interested in the concept of time, aging, and the inevitability of death.
It's not as tightly constructed as the other books, but it's fairly short and as readable as the others, and if you've enjoyed your first two forays into David Kepesh's world, it's doubtful you'll be wanting to miss the final installment.
I suppose the book is at once a character study and a commentary on the evolution of western culture; both intermingle flawlessly. But
When was it that I too began to think of age in terms of how much time I had left, rather than how long I'd been alive?
I'd rate this five stars if it weren't for the nagging sense that the author had it in him to tighten up the narrative, pull out some of the historical musings, and focus the inner monologue. For whatever reason, he tied things up a little too loosely. Still, be careful. Don't ever underestimate Roth.
It's not that I didn't enjoy it. I just don't know that I would have enjoyed it if I didn't know as much about Roth's background as I do. Because you see,
That situation is basically that he's an old man but he still loves the young ladies. He is a professor at a major university, sets his sites on a Cuban girl in his class and begins sleeping with her. Eventually he does weird things like lick blood off of her legs.
The book is a pretty self-indulgent undertaking. It is clearly just him trying to make sense of the affair and an attempt to discern why it affected him so much. I don't think he quite accomplishes that but I did end the book feeling like I'd gotten some useful insight into his own life and how it's affected a few of his other books.
Overall : I would not recommend this to anyone who is just starting out with Roth. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend it to a Roth fan who hadn't read both The Professor of Desire and The Breast.