EW Staff
May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

David Kepesh — scholar of Kafka, prisoner of the flesh, protagonist of The Breast (1972) and The Professor of Desire (1977) — once admitted to getting a charge from certain ”disquieting” novels about sex ”in which the author is himself pointedly implicated in what is morally most alarming.” Inasmuch as it reads like Roth’s confession that he experiences love as an absurd torture, The Dying Animal is such a book. Kepesh, now 70, talks of his recent affair with a classically ripe young thing named Consuela Castillo (translation: Comfort Castle) and moans an overheated lecture about sexual freedom and erotic tyranny. The book’s nerve endings are a pair of startling dirty bits — one a bite, one a lick, each a beastly ode to ”the delightful imbecility of lust.” Deploying the perfect cadences of Kepesh’s pathetic and delusional monologue, Roth conjures an uneasy dream of a novel. A

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