At 40, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction - pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line. Now his work is trekking from one doctor to another, but none can find a cause for the pain or assuage it. Zuckerman himself wonders if the pain could have been caused by his own books. And while he is wondering, his dependence on painkillers grows into an addiction to vodka, marijuana, and Percodan.
The third volume in the Nathan Zuckerman series, The Anatomy Lesson provides some of the funniest scenes in all of Roth's fiction - as well as some of the fiercest.