Sunday, December 12, 2010

Five best novels on failure

Howard Jacobson's most recent novel, The Finkler Question, won this year's Man Booker Prize.

At the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of novels on failure. One title on the list:
Sabbath's Theater
by Philip Roth (1995)

This is the last of Philip Roth's great hero-as-anathema novels (Mickey Sabbath himself being his most inordinate creation ever) before Roth turned to re-imagining his history through America's. Ask how such exhilaration can be found in a life in which so much has gone wrong and you touch on Roth's genius. This is Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel rolled inside "King Lear" and told Jewishly, a spit in the eye of conventional decency, a luxuriating in obscenity for its own sake but also with the intention of getting us to consider the role that the erotic plays in the sacred. Existing in the world as "antagonistically as he liked" is Sabbath's alternative to collapse, and in his final refusal of death's easy consolations—"How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here"—he blows the very idea of a failed life clean out of the water.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue