The digested read de John Crace se une a la campaña de demolición, emprendida por Edmundo Paz Soldán en The Boomerang, contra la última novela editada de Philip Roth, The Humbling. En su último número, comenta la novela poniendo énfasis en que la mediocridad súbita, la desaparición de talento y la impotencia creativa (que quiere ser reemplazada por potencia sexual) del personaje de la novela, enmascara apenas al verdadero protagonista: Philip Roth. La frase final: "It was him or me." Sin embargo, el verdadero cuchillo está en el penúltimo párrafo cuando escribe: ""I've had enough of this," Pegeen said, echoing every reader's thoughts." Se maleó. Me he reído mucho. Como sea, le dedico este post a mi querido Edmundo, el nuevo machetero de las reseñas literarias en castellano.
He'd lost his magic. The impulse was spent. Perhaps not the wisest admission from someone who has spent the last decade writing the same book, but the truth nonetheless. Simon Axler, let's call him Simon Axler, had never failed in the theatre, let's call it theatre; everything he had done had been successful. But now, at the age of 65, he couldn't act. He had failed as Prospero and Macbeth at the Kennedy Centre and going on stage had become agony.
His wife Victoria had left him and he sat at home contemplating suicide. The worst of it was that he saw through his breakdown and doubted it was genuine. Yet he had himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he was – naturally – befriended by an attractive woman.
"My husband has done vile things to our daughter, Philip," Sybil said.
"It's Simon, not Philip."
After his release, Axler had retreated to his farmhouse in upstate New York and it was there that Pegeen had visited him. Her parents were old friends and he had known her since she was a baby, suckling at her mother's breast. Now she was 40, a lesbian teaching at a progressive women's college in Vermont. "Have you ever slept with a man?" he asked.
"Not for more than 20 years," Pegeen replied. "But there's something about your arthritic body I find irresistible."
"I can only make love if you're on top of me because my back's playing up," he said, fondling her heavy breasts.
"You're a smooth talking lesbo-converter, Philip . . ."
"Whatever. No one else could make me want cock."
He started to buy her expensive lingerie, and though it grieved him that her parents were concerned about the age gap between Pegeen and him, he was greatly cheered up when her former lover Louise turned up at his house distraught with grief. "Why has she left me?" Louise cried.
"Because it's my book and in my books younger women always want to have sex with me."
She had now become insatiable. "As it's you, Philip, I mean Simon," Pegeen had said, "I'm up for the full range of dirty-old-man sexual fantasies. Bring on the anal sex, the dildos, the strap-ons and the threesomes with another girl with a shaved bush."
Simon picked up the newspaper. Sybil had killed her husband. Was it bravery or madness, he wondered briefly, before returning to his sexual reveries. Given another few sessions with five babes all gagging for him, he might even return to the theatre. Perhaps he should make things more permanent with Pegeen. He phoned the clinic to book a sperm motility test. "I've had enough of this," Pegeen said, echoing every reader's thoughts. "I'm off."
He sobbed uncontrollably. Her parents had conspired against him. Tracy had conspired against him. The world had conspired against him. He should have played this paragraph for laughter, instead of pathos. Yet the notion of the absurd barely penetrated. He thought of Sybil. He thought of the final lines of The Seagull. He pulled the trigger.