[The Anatomy Lesson] Download à Philip Roth

How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar jReprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography cclapcentercom I am the original author of this essay as well as the owner of CCLaP it is not being reprinted illegallyAs regular visitors know I m in the midst of reading all nine of the autobiographical Nathan Zuckerman novels that author Philip Roth has penned over the decades from 1979 s The Ghost Writer to 2007 s Exit Ghost And that s because as a newish book critic only three years full time now I m continually trying to educate myself about the periods of literary history I know the least about which would definitely include the Postmodernist Era which lasted roughly from Kennedy s death to 911 deliberately depressing touchstones chosen because of this period mostly marked by a preoccupation with the downfall of America or generally the downfall of all post industrial Western lifestyles and many say that one cannot get any better of a dense yet simplified look at that era than to read all of Roth s Zuckerman books since he not only spent most of his adult life in this period in his thirties at the beginning in his seventies by the end but is also one of the revered artists of this period as a result living a very typical Postmodernist life as dutifully recorded in these lightly fictionalized true life tales even while helping to shape what those typical issues were for society as a wholeI ve already covered his first book The Ghost Writer Roth s look back at his twenties as a hot young star of very late Modernism publishing his first New Yorker stories at the same time as his fellow Postmodernist pioneers as John Updike Norman Mailer and in the case of this book looking at it all through the filter of the naive Zuckerman attending a boozy Who s Afraid of Virginia Woolf type dinner in rural New England with a Saul Bellow stand in an older and successful writer who is ambivalent about his status as a 20th century trailblazer in Jewish literature actually written twenty years after the relevant events described and I ve already reviewed his second novel in the series as well the highly popular Zuckerman Unbound a frank and sometimes self scathing look at Roth s thirties when his funny and filthy Portnoy s Complaint became an accidental international bestseller and helped kick off an entire countercultural series of nebbishly sexy young urban Jews like Woody Allen and the like fictionalized here into Zuckerman s Carnovsky and which has ignited a mostly generational fiery debate among the Jewish community for laying out in a funny yet revealing proto Seinfeld way all the foibles and personality tics of that community tropes we now generally find endearing the guilt inducing Jewish mother the crazy uncle full of anti Semite conspiracy theories but that were highly controversial to talk about at the time that Roth didAnd the reason I mention this in such detail is that today s book under review 1983 s The Anatomy Lesson is in many ways about the same subjectsust with Zuckerman now in his forties the book s set in the FordCarter years of the mid 70s and how time and further revelations have now changed the way he look at all these topics Because this is a sadder and complicated Zuckerman we re seeing here one whose parents have recently died and whose brother accuses Carnovsky of killing which Nathan thinks of in a complex way sometimes wishing that he had done things differently sometimes angry over the fact that his parents could ve gotten it if they had tried but had chosen instead to be deliberately insulted by him airing their community s dirty laundry to the cackling laughter of a Gentile audience And like I said this does two things at once because since so many of Roth s fellow baby boomers had similarly contentious relationships with their parents over their countercultural beliefs and since it s so common to lose one s parents in one s forties Roth ends up speaking to his entire generation in this novel even as it also exists as a specific roman a clef about the ups and downs of intellectual fame of being a reluctant sex symbol in a let it all hang out age and But let me also make it clear that of the five Roth novels I ve now read the three mentioned 2004 s The Plot Against America and 2009 s The Humbling this is the first one to make me regularly giggle out loud in public all the way through it and I mean to the point where it was annoying my neighbors at the cafe and that s because this is also a very funny look at the Male Mid Life Crisis and all the ridiculous attitudes and actions that come with it That s actually the name of Life Crisis and the ridiculous attitudes and actions that come with it That s actually where the name of book comes from because as it opens we find a #40 year old zuckerman suffering from a mysterious #year old Zuckerman suffering from a mysterious pain that has nearly hobbled him which a dozen different doctors haven t yet been able to diagnose even as he is also becoming and aware of his rapidly corroding body thinning hair softening belly eventually reuiring More scary stories for sleep-overs just to get through his day his harem of Florence Nightingales a cadre of four women who play different roles in his life but in one way or another help to take care of him some of whom also regularly have kinky sex with him despite his injuries He props up his head during oral sex with a thousand page thesaurus given to him by his proudly blue collar immigrant father in the 1940s as he headed off for college at the University of Chicago and that single sentence right there gives you a pretty good snapshot look at Roth s entire careerTired of his role as a public intellectual and scourge of feminists and conservative Jews nationwide on the spur of a moment one day Zuckerman decides that what he really wants to do is move back to Chicago and go to medical school yet another development the novel s title alludes to figuring that he ll be ready to have a nice uiet practice completely out of the limelight by the time he s fifty but this is where the zany part comes in as it often does with humorous Postmodernist Jewish artists because Zuckerman happens to be self medicating for his pain at the time through a combination of vodka weed and Percodan overdoses which makes him come to believe that a spur of the moment trip to Chicago is in order to hit up an old college friend who s now a doctor for a med school recommendation the surrealism upped and through the continual cocktail of controlled substances he downs all the way there which by the time he s in Chicago has him babbling in morphine fueled monologues to anyone who will listen about how he s actually a Larry Flynt type publisher of hardcore smut who is there to kick Hugh Hefner s ass proudly proclaiming his name to be actually the name of a Jewish book critic who has panned all of Zuckerman s books And for my fellow Chicagoans don t miss the amazingly nostalgic and detailed reminisces about the city in the 1950s that Roth offers up in this section including fantastic descriptions of a run down Mid Century Modernist Loop and getting drunk with Thomas Mann in the still existing Hyde Park dive bar institution Jimmy s Woodlawn Tap The whole thing culminates then with a series of wonderful little surprises which is why I won t spoil things but suffice to say that things end on a somber note but that has interesting things to say about the aging and maturation processIt s Roth really at the top of his form for the first time coming into his mature voice here in the early 80sust in time for his most revered work award winning novels like American Pastoral and The Human Stain that he will be best remembered for but at the same time it s also a timeless look at middle age and the issues that all people in their early forties go through although especially nebbish oversexed intellectuals in their early forties which on top of simply being a good history book now gives you triple the usual reasons to read it yourself I have to say three titles in now I m really glad so far that I decided to take on the Zuckerman novels and this latest has me looking that much forward now to the next in the series 1985 s provocatively titled The Prague Orgy an experimental novella in which we follow Zuckerman s ournal as he travels to Communist Czechoslovakia to seek a missing manuscript from a martyred Yiddish writer Here s hoping it ll be as good as the first three volumes The Anatomy LessonThe Anatomy Lesson 1983 is the third of a trilogy of Philip Roth novels about an American Jewish novelist Nathan Zuckerman Zuckerman has at least vague resemblances to what readers might imagine as the character of Roth Throughout the book Roth plays on these resemblances teasing the reader about the extent to whic. At forty 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 is unable to write a line Now his work is trekking from one doctor to another but none can find a cause for th. ,

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The Anatomy LessonSon is book 3 in the Zuckerman Bound trilogy The first two being The Ghost Writer and Zuckerman Unbound The Prague Orgy is also included often as it is the epilogue thus turning the trilogy into a tetralogy Anyway like all of the Zuckerman novels Roth is brutal in his introspection Zuckerman has bottled up his anger at his moralist critics and mental anguish at the death of his parents to the extent that he actually suffers physically and is unable to write This creative castration of Zuckerman serves to drive the narrative as much as this type of novel has a driven narrative Mostly it deals with conversations with friends and doctors physical relationships with female caregivers and large doses of philosophical tangents on pain pleasure defense of creativity consciousness kin death doubt etc One of my favorite sections of the book was Zuckerman riffing on the inside of his mouth When he wasn t sucking liuid pulp or sleeping he went exploring his mouth with his tongue Nothing existed but the inside of his mouth He made all sorts of discoveries in there Your mouth is who you are You can t get very much closer to what you think of yourself The next stop up is the brain No wonder fellatio has achieved such renown Your tongue lives in your mouth and your tongue is you He sent his tongue everywhere to see what he was doing beyond the mental arch bars and elastic bands Across the raw vaulted dome of the palate down to the tender cavernous sockets of the missing teeth and then the plunge below the gum line That is where they d opened him up and wired him together For the tongue it was like the ourney up the river in Heart of Darkness The mysterious stillness the miles of silence the tongue creeping conradianly on toward Kurtz I am the Marlowe of my mouthBrilliant It was arguably a mistake to read The Anatomy Lesson without first reading the previous two books in the Zuckerman series but the third installment works fine on its own especially if the reader has a working knowledge of Philip Roth s own history One can easily mentally replace Carnovsky the book for which author Nathan Zuckerman became famous with Roth s own Portnoy s Complaint and all becomes clear I read Portnoy s Complaint many many years ago but it s not a book one uickly forgetsThe Anatomy Lesson suffers a bit from its episodic nature which stops the reader from feeling he s read a completely cohesive novel once he s through but its comic set pieces than make up for that flawI ve only read a handful of novels with passages as funny as those in The Anatomy Lesson in which Zuckerman poses as his rival Milton Appel transforming him from a literary critic to a pornographer in order to verbally assault anyone who will listen and those who won t with long detailed profanity filled descriptions of his completely made up career as an adult movie producer men s magazine publisher and sex club ownerThose passages serve as a comic prelude to later scenes in which Zuckerman s misguided attempts to actually transform himself from a novelist to a doctor reach their downbeat but inevitable conclusionFor someone like me who has read a handful of Roth books but never any of the Zuckerman novels and wanted to see what they were like without committing to the whole series The Anatomy Lesson turned out to be a good choice Nathan Zuckerman is forty married and divorced three times Both his parents are now dead his mother from a sudden brain tumor His brother isn t speaking to him His brother s wife only utters the most rudimentary comments out of fear of being uoted in Zuckerman s next novel Zuckerman has severe writer s block and severe pain in his neck back shoulders He spends much of the day down on a playmat in his apartment being sexually serviced by four or five different women and servicing themOne of them a Polish migr e named Jaga who works as a technician in the hair restoration clinic he visits says But if you are looking at me for sex I am not interested I hate lust It s a nuisance I don t like the smells I don t like the sounds Once twice with somebody is fine beyond that it s a partnership in dirt Yet a few visits later Jaga is drunk her cheek crushed to the playmat and her rear raised to face him and she s crying out Nail me nail me crucify me with your Jewish prickUh huhMaybe it s all of this playing doctor that gives Zuckerman the sudden inspiration to uit Manhattan move to Chicago where he went to university and enroll in the medical school He decides he wants to be an obstetrician Soon he becomes aware this also means being a gynecologist Flying out out for an admission interview he meets his female limo driver Ricky and pretends to be Milton Appel a critic who has given him a bad review Appel s new identity is a pornographer with a magazine called Lickety Split Soon he is enchanted by Ricky s stolidnessYou know how many come there who actually fuckNo sirTake a guessBetter if I concentrate on my driving sir Heavy trafficTwenty percentThe novel ends with Zuckerman pitching face forward onto a gravestone fracturing his aw and knocking out teeth carried to Billings Hospital by Ricky where the doctors and interns try to impress upon him what a horrible idea becoming a doctor would beMilton Appel was based on Irving Howe What is perhaps so striking about this book is that Philip Roth depicts an aging writer who because of undiagnosed physical pain has stopped writing filling his world with doubt and despair Zuckerman s pain is very much an investigation of Roth s own biographical highlights Roth too recovered from surgery stopped finding writing worthwhile and was attacked over and highlights Roth too recovered from surgery stopped finding writing worthwhile and was attacked over and again for his most infamous novel Portnoy s Complaint ie Carnovsky So disillusioned with writing is Zuckerman that he wants to become a doctor healing his own pain but mroe importantly healing his Zuckerman that he wants to become a doctor healing his own pain but mroe importantly healing his doubt Idealistic yes but as Roth always does his characters occupations always inform on writing For Zuck being a doctor means working with people not alone with doubtSome of the wildest passages are when Zuckerman poses as a pornographer he has named after his worst literary critic Appel His arguments for pornography sadistically paralell a defense for his own writing It abuses women It is bad for the Jews No You misunderstand me Though posing as Appel is revenge in writerly overdrive Roth is reacting to his real world critics while underminding his characters Yep meta meta meta fiction Arg You know it enjoy Read this on the heels of Zuckerman Unbound to see Nathan dealing with his success I think that Roth writes these books for the idealistic He wants people to know that writing is hard celebrity is harder and that even though everyone is going to tell you you are crazy no one will sympathize with your literary plights Or career choices for that matter Zuckerman lives for a time with an unrealistic dream to be a doctor and when explaining this to his college friend Bobby now a doctor he is turned off of his idealism It is not writing that is full of doubt life is full of doubt Some of Roth s most touching passages are when Zuckerman finally finding solace in people who actually address his pain as life s pain wanders here and there in a hospital He talks with the elderly He visits those who are sick He pushes an old man around in a wheel chair He is inspecting himself and realizing in the calm after his personal storms that This is life With real teeth in it And though Zuckerman may still not have matured all the way out of himself he is set to try In the previous book in the Zuckerman Bound series entitled Zuckerman Unbound we see that the novelist Zuckerman castigated particularly by Jews for his popular and funny novel Carnovsky about a lecherous young Jewish man such as Roth s Portnoy s Complaint Carnovsky s Newark Jewish community and his family are horrified that they see his family in this novel This is a deliberate ploy on Roth s part to say This is the funniest of the Zuckerman Unbound tetrology and a fantastic read Again Nathan is living in the aftermath of the publication and scandal surrounding his book Carnovsky Portnoy s Complaint in Roth s real life He is in constant physical pain with 4 then 5 mistresses and decides to drop writing and go to medical school in Chicago In Chicago his female limo driver Ricky is treated to his impersonation of a literary rival who Nathan transforms into a pornographer This is a wonderfully funny book fully of life and typical Roth self deprecation and now one of my favorites from him Now I need to read PatrimonyRIP 1933 2018 One of America s literary giants has left Escribed as a manner at oncebrash and thoughtful lyrical and wry which projects through comic expostulations and confessionsa knowing humane authority The third volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound The Anatomy Lesson provides some of the funniest scenes in all of Roth's fiction as well as some of the fierce. H the writer and his fictional protagonist may be the same The relationship between author and character is only one of the many studied ambiguities and themes in this bookThe story is told in the third person perhaps to separate Roth from Zuckerman It is set primarily in 1973 shortly after Watergate At the age of 40 Zuckerman has written four novels but has suffered from writer s block for four years When he published his fourth and highly successful novel Carnovsky his father and brother reacted sharply as they thought the book mocked the family and American Jews On his death bed the father cursed Zuckerman About a year after the father s death Zuckerman s mother died Roth s first sentence in the book is when he is sick every man wants his mother Thus Zuckerman has been suffering from severe neck and back pains which the finest of New York City s specialists cannot diagnose or cure and he becomes dependent upon the ministrations of womenThe book features a mixture of Roth s bravado and sharp humor on the one hand and seriousness and introspection on the other hand Ego is on full display Much of the story moves forward through long conversations between Zukerman and a variety of other characters in the book There are many arguments and verbal confrontationsA major theme of the book is the loneliness and isolation of the life of a writer Zuckerman portrays himself with some reason is sitting in a bare uiet room from his 20 s struggling to develop and think through language and character and stories His libido as always is in the way as Zuckerman has gone through and divorced what he describes as three exemplary wives Zuckerman also is stung by criticism of his work even though his novels have attained great popularity and have made him financially comfortable Midway in the book the frustrated writer forms the idea of going back to school changing professions and becoming a doctor He imagines that as a physician he could do clearcut good for people and avoid the ambiguities bickering and loneliness attendant to writing Besides dealing with the process and nature of writing Zuckerman has issues with his strong sexuality and even so with his JewishnessThe novel is in two broad parts The first part takes place with Zuckerman with his illness and writer s block in New York City He is tended to by four women each of whom offers him care as well as sex in varied forms The opening gradually turns to Zuckerman s relationship to a critic named Appel who has written a lengthy essay rejecting Zuckerman s work for what he sees as its hostility to American Judaism Following the Yom Kippur War Zuckerman learns that Appel wants him to write a New York Times essay responding to criticism of Israel Zuckerman reacts angrily in the process addressing sore issues about his relationship to his family to the community in which he grew up and to JudaismThe second part of the book is set in Chicago Full of painkillers drugs and alcohol Zuckerman travels to the University of Chicago in pursuit of his will of the wisp dream to become a physician This is the stronger livelier part of the book full of outrageously brilliant ribald and yet introspective writing To a variety of people including the unfortunate businessman sharing a plane seat with him and a young woman working as a chauffeur Zuckerman portrays himself as a successful and unscrupulous hard core pornographer with the name of his nemesis Appel en route to a meeting with Hugh Heffner Zuckerman also meets with an old high school friend who has become a doctor and a medical school professor Zuckerman s writers block if not his illnes seems to disappear as his imagination becomes overworked in his depiction of himeslf as the publisher of pornographic magazines and movies and the proprietor of a swingers clubThe novel manages to combine bravura and wit with considerable seriousness and thought The book portrays well the sense of inner conflict that invariably accompanies writing or serious intellectual or creative effort The books in Roth s Zuckerman trilogy The Ghost Writer Zuckerman Unbound and The Anatomy Lesson each stand on their own and do not reuire knowledge of the other books in the series to be enjoyed and ponderedRobin Friedman If the first half of this book didn t exist the book would ve earned threethree and a half stars But the first 150 pages or so are completely unfocused boring and incredible though I ve heard much of what happens in the book actually happened to Roth in real life a claim that is irrelevant as far as I m concernedthat I nearly hurled this book across the room at several points during my arduous attempts at finishing it The Anatomy Lesson was my first and LAST experience with Roth The Literature of PainRoth has written about the literature of sex of the American dream of infidelity of Jewish angst of the flagging libido and even of the dying human animal this time he is writing about the literature of painRoth s alter ego Nathan Zuckerman who normally hides in the background to tell other people s stories is front and centre of this one in full meltdown Sandwiched between two other Zuckerman BOOKS OF A PERSONAL NATURE ZUCKERMAN of a personal nature Zuckerman and The Counterlife The Anatomy Lesson has our hero suffering from a mysterious and incurable neck pain going on for nearly 18 months One doctor prescribed a regimen of twelve aspirin per day another prescribed Butazolidin another Robaxin another Percodan another Valium another Prednisone another told him to throw all the pills down the toilet the poisonous Prednisone first and learn to live with it We suspect his pain comes from a hurt ego caused by a bad book review from fellow Jewish critic Milton Appel and guilt from the damage Zuckerman brought upon his now dead parents by the publication of his bestselling fourth novel Carnovsky a proxy for Roth s Portnoy s Complaint That writing is an act of imagination seems to perplex and infuriate everyone Life and art are distinct posits Zuckerman what could be clearerTo be raised as a post immigrant Jew in America is to be given a ticket out of the ghetto into a wholly unconstrained world of thought Both Appel and Zuckerman fit this mold Yet Appel turned from friend to foe after the Carnovsky novel categorizing Zuckerman as anti Semite The Zuckerman Appel conflict can be summed up as I m a petty raging vengeful unforgiving Jew and I have been insulted one time too many by another petty raging vengeful unforgiving Jew Hopped on drugs and fueled by alcohol Zuckerman comes to the conclusion that he has to give up his career of writing recognize his four dead marriages as being a conseuence of the writer s claustrophobic and self absorbed life give up his current four mistresses who each nurse him at different times without colliding into each other and study to be a doctor even though he would end up ualifying at the ripe old age of 50 He leaves New York for the University of Chicago to enrol Enroute his mental state starts to unravel and he takes on the role of Milton Appel pornographer and men s club owner telling all and sundry of how he makes his living as such This gives him the thrill of revenge the spur of invention and an outlet for his seething anger and #pain His antics on planes and limos during this meltdown is hilarious bawdy and downright #His antics on planes and limos during this meltdown is hilarious bawdy and downright Portnoy ReduxSome brilliant lines come out during this headlong flight to the bottom The only patient being treated by the writer is himself Without fanaticism nothing great in fiction could ever be achieved I am changing American fking forever I am setting this country free Stand alone Like Swift and Dostoevsky and Joyce and Flaubert Obstinate independence Unshakable defiance Perilous freedom No in thunder While doubt is half a writer s life Two thirds Nine tenths Another day another doubt The only thing I never doubted was the doubt When the collapse finally comes and Roth seems to make them happen in familiar territory like cemeteries a la Sabbath s Theatre and Everyman and he gets his chance to see the insides of a hospital and what doctors face day in day out Zuckerman realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side that the ourney from typewriter to stethoscope is indeed a long one perhaps one never to be completed or even attempted although many successful authors like Cronin Maugham and Conan Doyle made the ourney successfully in the opposite directionThis is fresh energetic and brilliant writing Roth is at his peak pain notwithstanding Pain is like a baby crying What it wants it can t name Philip Roth The Anatomy LessonThe Anatomy Les. E pain and nobody can assuage it Zuckerman himself wonders if the pain can have been caused by his own books And while he is wondering his dependence on painkillers grows into an addiction to vodka marijuana and Percodan The Anatomy Lesson is a great comedy of illness written in what the English critic Hermione Lee has ,

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