Making sense of our reading.
The dying animal - Philip RothThe title is taken from a verse in a poem, Sailing to Byzantium, by W B YeatsConsume my heart away; sick with desireAnd fastened to a dying animalIt knows not what it is;This is a powerful book on living or dying. As old age approaches, the "animal" in us, the physically sexual being, inevitably loses its youthfulness. It is in the natural order of things. A change of perspective though is required to traverse this last stage of mortality in the present times. The tale is a bold one, holding little credibility for some and an affront to others. It centres on the seduction and domination by a male nearing the end of his sexual vigour, who wields an authority that derives from age, experience and culture, of a young female whose statuesque beauty is seemingly all she brings to the relationship. It is a love story that is fraught with his anxiety and suffering in the first part of the book because he is afraid of losing her precisely because of the limits placed by his age on the sexual love he will be able to afford her in the time left to him. His own code of life is built on the sexual freedom won in the 60s. In the last part of the book, she is the one who suffers panic and anxiety because her perfect breasts have been invaded by cancer. She goes to him, the only person whose love enabled her to find and experience herself in her body. She now needs him to adapt to losing some of that same body they both shared so meaningfully. Life can be baffling for all, but the protagonists now have an opportunity to experience other dimensions in their relationship. There is no call for sexual love anymore; neither does she want it nor can he handle it. All the same, the fulfilling enjoyment of their most important sexual experiences with each other now paves a way forward for further living. We are dying only when we are not living.
It describes human feelings wonderfully. The language is very rich as it's usually the case in Philip Roth's books. It's not just erotic love but much more, i.e. the main character talks to his former lover when she's very ill.
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