Friday, June 30, 2017

Fiction Friday (53)

Well, in a shock, I finished reading another book in just under two weeks. Having packed up all my unread books in preparation for my imminent move, I went to the public library to search for some reading material. Having been unsuccessful in locating any of the authors on my list, I ended up in the R's and found myself looking at Philip Roth, an author I've read and enjoyed. I picked up a recent book of his and was rewarded with an excellent read. Enjoy.

The Humbling by Philip Roth
(Harcourt, 2009)
What happens when an artist looses his talent, or more accurately, perceives that he has lost his talent? This brief novel examines that question with profound poise and a delicate choice of words. I applaud Philip Roth for daring to tackle a subject that haunts every artist. Though he chooses an actor as the main character, there is an obvious connection between that art and the art of writing. Both require the artist to inhabit the persona of a character and breath life into a story. There is no doubt in my mind that Roth was exploring his own fears of losing his talent, something every writer I've ever known has pondered.

The initial reaction of the main character upon convincing himself that he has lost the ability to act is to fall into hopeless despair. As an artist, one comes to view and define themselves by that talent, and the loss of the talent leads to a loss of self. The artist must then attempt to rebuild their idea of self, typically through activities that are subconsciously related to the craft. Roth portrays this internal struggle subtly and accurately without any sense of melodrama. 

This book hit really close to home for me. A few years back, I reached a point where I'd given up all hope in my talent to write and went through some very tough times. And like the main character, I made choices that weren't exactly healthy for the psyche. My journey nearly ended in the same horrible manner as the main character, but I'm glad to say that recently, I've once again come to believe in my talents.

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