Roth, too, would like you to think that Simon Axler is powerless over his lot in life, but that doesn’t wash. He’s a famous 65-year-old actor who can no longer go on stage without embarrassing himself. Neither, this being a Roth novel, can he help himself when his friends’ beautiful lesbian daughter, 25 years his junior, seduces him. Talk about pulling strings.
Every once in a while Roth lets loose with a line that has the sting and power of a Roger Federer forehand. But for the most part the prose is as predictable as the plot, leaving you to agree with both the writer and the protagonist: “This is the stuff not of high tragedy, but of the funny papers.”
So if you want the scoop on tragedy and happiness, the ordinary and extraordinary, at least this time around, go ask Alice.
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