It seems to me that Philip Roth sits squarely within a tradition of great story-telling. I can imagine being in a quiet room with him and then he leans over and says “Let me tell you about this guy I know…”
His work is conversational, relaxed; it is unfussy, unpretentious. Yet none of this stops it from getting to the heart of the matter in question – and, in “Everyman”, there is (in a prosaic sense) a real heart at the heart of the matter.
The core theme of “Everyman” – mortality – is a big one; perhaps the biggest there is. So don’t expect a barrel of laughs. But do expect a book that lays bare the frailties of what it is to be human: physical, in terms of how the central figure has lived his life, and mental, in how he tries to understand what’s left of his future. It is probably this latter element that is the most poignant and most striking; he is an ‘everyman’ in the sense that what he experiences we all must go through on way or another. The book starts with the funeral of the protagonist and then lays out how he came to be there. When you get to the end, you actually feel pleased for him that he has died.