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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 3, 2006 / 5 Iyar 5766

Life and death without the hocus-pocus

By Norman Lebrecht

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The late flowering of Philip Roth — six novels in the past decade, four of them towering masterpieces — has hit a hiatus, a marble slab, with this slim, unsmiling volume of a death foretold. Roth buries his protagonist in the opening, two-page-long paragraph. There is nowhere further to go, no escaping the end of all flesh.


His hero has no name. He is Everyman, a 21st century transposition of the medieval English allegory, his life related in a crafted combination of marital breakdowns and medical history.


Everyman, retired creative director of a successful advertising agency, removes himself from Manhattan after the twin towers fall to the security of a three-room geriatric condo on the New Jersey coast, not far from where he grew up. Loneliness and fear set in. His daughter phones him each morning before she sets out to work, but she is too hassled to visit. Around him, the neighbours are immersed in pictures of grandchildren and the ceaseless struggle with diseases that are steadily killing them. Everyman teaches an art class to make new friends. One by one, he attends their funerals.


Old colleagues, their phone numbers half-forgotten, stare up at him from the obituary pages. Once a year he goes to the hospital for tests and is told that he needs another surgical procedure to correct arterial blockages and, quite possibly, the shortcomings of past operations. Each time, the doctors assure him that he is going to be fine, their faith in progress and in their own shining skills unsullied by the small percentage of failures, or any recognition that death must ultimately win. The one woman who cared for him in crisis, albeit for pay, is uncontactable. Everyman faces his fate alone.

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Roth excels in exploring relational crevices, the cracks that can break a love apart or linger patiently beneath its floorboards, like dry rot. He knows the urges of men and the limits of women's tolerance. For a vocational storyteller who has never held a job, he has a better grasp of the life-work balance than John Updike, Ian McEwan or any other living novelist. He understands the moral importance of work, no matter how meaningless, to mortal self-esteem. What Roth is not so good at is death. "Old age isn't a battle," grunts his self-consumed narrator, "old age is a massacre." It's a nice adage, if partly untrue.


Everyman rejects the afterlife. "No hocus-pocus about death and G-d or obsolete fantasies of heaven for him. There was only our bodies, born to live and die on terms decided by the bodies that had lived and died before us." The rejection, however, is too angry to be atheistic. Roth, through his narrator, rages at G-d for giving us so short and empty a life. His hatred of the eternal is almost mistakable for love.


On the drive to his last bout with the surgeons, he stops at the dilapidated Jewish cemetery where his parents are buried and engages a black gravedigger in a conversation about the details of his digging and his dedication to the job. The intense pride that this simple man takes in a task honourably performed counterpoints the vapidity of Everyman's work, his vain efforts to promote consumer products through his art and fertile mind. The vanity of vanities is revealed. There is no point to life, after all.


At first reading, this sombre novella leaves no more than a bitter taste and a desire to re-read certain pages for their word-perfection. On second reading, more allegories are revealed, but not incontestably. Life, you keep feeling, need not be as hopeless as this. Love can be preserved with a little care and attention. And alone as we are at the moment of death, there is something that endures of every life, no matter how meaningless it may seem at times to the one who lived it. Roth fails in the face of death by refusing to countenance the dignity of human life, as distinct from the dignity of work and art. Everyman leaves him with nowhere to go.

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JWR contributor Norman Lebrecht is Assistant Editor of London's Evening Standard and presenter of lebrecht.live on BBC Radio 3. He has written ten books about music, which have been translated into 13 languages. They include the international best-sellers The Maestro Myth and When the Music Stops. His website is NormanLebrecht.com To comment, please click here.




© 2006, Norman Lebrecht