The Anatomy Lesson
"When he is sick, every man wants his mother; if she's not around,
other women must do. Zuckerman was making do with four
other women. He'd never had so many women at one time, or so many
doctors, or drunk so much vodka, or done so little work, or known
despair of such wild proportions. Yet he didn't seem to have a
disease that anybody could take seriously."
Wracked by pain, Nathan Zuckerman --- a writer by trade --- is
unable to concentrate on anything but the alleviation of his
misery, and he seeks it in the bevy of women who he has enlisted to
take care of him. He's tried the medical approach, but not one of
his doctors can find the root of his illness.
With his writing at a standstill, his parents both dead, and his
brother estranged, Zuckerman contemplates whether or not his
sickness is the result of his guilt over the complications his
writing has wrought on his family.
THE ANATOMY LESSON is both the bleakest and most hilariously
profane of the Zuckerman novels which include THE GHOST WRITER and
ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND. The epigram to the novel, taken from the
TEXTBOOK OF ORTHOPEDIC MEDICINE by James Cyriax, M.D.,
states: "The chief obstacle to correct diagnosis in
painful conditions is the fact that the symptom is often felt at a
distance from its source."
Roth has taken Zuckerman to a crossroads of truth and
responsibility searching for that source. Though the
path may be dark at times, along the way we're treated to his comic
genius and his poignant insights. THE ANATOMY LESSON is a
dissection of a soul in turmoil, and Philip Roth wields his scalpel
with deft precision.
Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 20, 2011