The Dying Animal

The Dying Animal

By:  Philip Roth

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 volupté" 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 precedent--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.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547344010

  • ISBN-10: 0547344015

  • Pages: 176

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/18/2001

Philip Roth
Author

Philip Roth

PHILIP ROTH (1933–2018) won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral in 1997. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003–2004" and the W.H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year, making Roth the first writer in the forty-six-year history of the prize to win it twice.In 2005 Roth became the third living American writer to have his works published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. In 2012 he won Spain's highest honor, the Prince of Asturias Award, and in 2013 he received France's highest honor, Commander of the Legion of Honor.
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  • reviews

    "...a distinguished addition to Roth's increasingly remarkable literary career." The San Francisco Chronicle

    "(a) gleefully incendiary tale...whose eloquence and rage ultimately persuade us that (we)...bear the grace and the misfortune of belonging to a deeply flawed, tragically vulnerable, unavoidably mortal species." Elle

    "This little book delivers a chill that you wouldn't get from a Zuckerman novel." Newsday

    "In the hard, driving, unsentimental sentences, and with superb dialogue...Roth remained true to his youthful vision" Atlantic Monthly

    "Powerful...Roth's narrator newly illuminates the American body, the American soul, the life of loving and the love of life that has always been so all-consuming in his fiction." The Chicago Tribune

    "...insidiously disturbing and completely irresistable...All sympathetic readers will find themselves wondering: Is Philip Roth now our finest living novelist?" The Washington Post

    "...the eponymous dying animal is not only a certain sort of man of a particular generation, but all of us..." Elle

    "Small in size..large in insight and wisdom...Roth is spitting out brilliant novels every year. He's an American treasure." Orlando Sentinel

    "...encompasses a broad expanse of human emotion and extends his stunning literary winning streak." St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    "...a brilliant, demanding and splendidly artful exploration of fundamentals of literature and life" The Baltimore Sun

  • excerpts

    I knew her eight years ago. She was in my class. I don’t teach full- time anymore, strictly speaking don’t teach literature at all--for years now just the one class, a big senior seminar in critical writing called Practical Criticism. I attract a lot of female students. For two reasons. Because it’s a subject with an alluring combination of intellectual glamour and journalistic glamour and because they’ve heard me on NPR reviewing books or seen me on Thirteen talking about culture. Over the past fifteen years, being cultural critic on the television program has made me fairly well known locally, and they’re attracted to my class because of that. In the beginning, I didn’t realize that talking on TV once a week for ten minutes could be so impressive as it turns out to be to these students. But they are helplessly drawn to celebrity, however inconsiderable mine may be.

    Now, I’m very vulnerable to female beauty, as you know. Everybody’s defenseless against something, and that’s it for me. I see it and it blinds me to everything else. They come to my first class, and I know almost immediately which is the girl for me. There is a Mark Twain story in which he runs from a bull, and the bull looks up to him when he’s hiding in a tree, and the bull thinks, “You are my meat, sir.” Well, that “sir” is transformed into “young lady” when I see them in class. It is now eight years ago--I was already sixty-two, and the girl, who is called Consuela Castillo, was twenty-four. She is not like the rest of the class. She doesn’t look like a student, at least not like an ordinary student. She’s not a demi-adolescent, she’s not a slouching, unkempt, “like”-ridden girl. She’s well spoken, sober, her posture is perfect--she appears to know something about adult life along with how to sit, stand, and walk. As soon as you enter the class, you see that this girl either knows more or wants to. The way she dresses. It isn’t ex-actly what’s called chic, she’s certainly not flamboyant, but, to begin with, she’s never in jeans, pressed or unpressed. She dresses carefully, with quiet taste, in skirts, dresses, and tailored pants. Not to desen-sualize herself but more, it would seem, to professionalize herself, she dresses like an attractive secretary in a prestigious legal firm. Like the secretary to the bank chairman. She has a cream-colored silk blouse under a tailored blue blazer with gold buttons, a brown pocketbook with the patina of expensive leather, and little ankle boots to match, and she wears a slightly stretchy gray knitted skirt that re-veals her body lines as subtly as such a skirt possibly could. Her hair is done in a natural but cared-for manner. She has a pale complexion, the mouth is bowlike though the lips are full, and she has a rounded forehead, a polished forehead of a smooth Brancusi elegance. She is Cuban. Her family are prosperous Cubans living in Jersey, across the river in Bergen County. She has black, black hair, glossy but ever so slightly coarse. And she’s big. She’s a big woman. The silk blouse is unbuttoned to the third button, and so you see she has powerful, beauti- ful breasts. You see the cleavage immediately. And you see she knows it. You see, despite the decorum, the meticulousness, the cautiously soigné style--or because of them--that she’s aware of herself. She comes to the first class with the jacket buttoned over her blouse, yet some five minutes into the session, she has taken it off. When I glance her way again, I see that she’s put it back on. So you understand that she’s aware of her power but that she isn’t sure yet how to use it, what to do with it, how much she even wants it. That body is still new to her, she’s still trying it out, thinking it through, a bit like a kid walking the streets with a loaded gun and deciding whether he’s packing it to protect himself or to begin a life of crime.

    And she’s aware of something else, and this I couldn’t know from the one class meeting: she finds culture important in a reverential, old- fashioned way. Not that it’s something she wishes to live by. She doesn’t and she couldn’t--too traditionally well brought up for that-- but it’s important and wonderful as nothing else she knows is. She’s the one who finds the Impressionists ravishing but must look long and hard--and always with a sense of nagging confoundment--at a Cubist Picasso, trying with all her might to get the idea. She stands there waiting for the surprising new sensation, the new thought, the new emotion, and when it won’t come, ever, she chides herself for being inadequate and lacking . . . what? She chides herself for not even knowing what it is she lacks. Art that smacks of modernity leaves her not merely puzzleed but disappointed in herself. She would love for Picasso to matter more, perhaps to transform her, but there’s a scrim drawn across the proooooscenium of genius that obscures her vision and keeps her worshiping at a bit of a distance. She gives to art, to all of art, far more than she gets back, a sort of earnestness that isn’t without its poignant appeal. A good heart, a lovely face, a gaze at once invit- ing and removed, gorgeous breasts, and so newly hatched as a woman that to find fragments of broken shell adhering to that ovoid forehead wouldn’t have been a surprise. I saw right away that this was going to be my girl.

    Now, I have one set rule of some fifteen years’ standing that I never break. I don’t any longer get in touch with them on a private basis until they’ve completed their final exam and received their grade and I am no longer officially in loco parentis. In spite of temptation-- or even a clear-cut signal to begin the flirtation and make the approach--I haven’t broken this rule since, back in the mid-eighties, the phone number of the sexual harassment hotline was first posted outside my office door. I don’t get in touch with them any earlier so as not to run afoul of those in the university who, if they could, would seriously impede my enjoyment of life.

    I teach each year for fourteen weeks, and during that time I don’t have affairs with them. I play a trick instead. It’s an honest trick, it’s an open and aboveboard trick, but it is a trick nonetheless. After the final examination and once the grades are in, I throw a party in my apartment for the students. It is always a success and it is always the same. I invite them for a drink at about six o’clock. I say that from six to eight we are going to have a drink, and they always stay till two in the morning. The bravest ones, after ten o’clock, develop into lively characters and tell me what they really are interested in. In the Practical Criticism seminar there are about twenty students, sometimes as many as twenty-five, so there will be fifteen, sixteen girls and five or six boys, of whom two or three are straight. Half of this group has left the party by ten. Generally, one straight boy, maybe one gay boy, and some nine girls will stay. They’re invariably the most cultivated, intelligent, and spirited of the lot. They talk about what they’re reading, what they’re listening to, what art shows they’ve seen--enthusiasms that they don’t normally go on about with their elders or necessarily with their friends. They find one another in my class. And they find me. During the party they suddenly see I am a human being. I’m not their teacher, I’m not my reputation, I’m not their parent. I have a pleasant, orderly duplex apartment, they see my large library, aisles of

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547344010

  • ISBN-10: 0547344015

  • Pages: 176

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/18/2001

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