Sunday, September 22, 2013

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson, excerpt four)

from The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth:

Henry’s eulogy lasted nearly an hour. Nathan kept count as Henry slipped each page beneath the last. Seventeen—some five thousand words. It would have taken him a week to write five thousand words, but Henry had done it overnight, and in a hotel suite with three young children and a wife. Zuckerman couldn’t write if there was a cat in the room. That was one of the differences between them.

A hundred mourners were gathered in the mortuary chapel, mostly lonely widowed Jewish women in the sixties and seventies who’d been transplanted South after a lifetime in New York and New Jersey. By the time Henry had finished, they all wished they’d had such a son, and not only because of his height, posture, profile, and lucrative practice: it was the depth of the filial devotion. Zuckerman thought, If sons were like that, I’d have one myself. Not that Henry was out to put something over on them; it was by no means a ludicrously idealized portrait—the virtues were all hers. Yet they were virtues of the kind that make life happy for a little boy. Chekhov, drawing on material resembling Henry’s, had written a story one-third that length called “The Darling,” However, Chekhov wasn’t undoing the damage of Carnovsky.

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