Bookwomyn, November 3, 2008 (view all comments by Bookwomyn)
I just finished this book also ... though I listened to the audio book from the library. I enjoyed it but the reader often shouted the text causing me to jump out of my boots sometimes. Really! There are other ways apart from shouting to convey emotions. Roth is reliable as an author and while I would not say this was his best book, it was good and presented emotions from a youth's pov which were compelling.
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OneMansView, October 29, 2008 (view all comments by OneMansView)
In this short, tragic, and insightful novel, Marcus Messner, the "perfect" son of a Newark kosher butcher, steps into the adult world at age nineteen, finding it puzzling, stimulating, hostile, and even overwhelming. Set during the height of the Korean War, in 1951, Marcus has been forced to transfer to a small Christian college in Winesburg, Ohio, because his father has smothered him with obsessive concerns for his safety.
To say that Marcus finds life on the Winesburg campus jarring is an understatement. The idyllic nature of campus life pictured in the brochure is quickly shattered, when a roommate drives Marcus to smash a Beethoven record that he has been playing loudly at all hours. After changing dormitory rooms, Marcus, a virgin, musters up the courage to ask out a quiet fellow student, only to be completely flummoxed by her sexual prowess. A meeting with the dean of students, regarding Marcus' frequent room changes, degrades into Marcus lecturing the dean on the merits of Russell's "Why I am not a Christian," as an argument to avoid mandatory chapel attendance. Marcus' pursuit of his studies, of his perfect life, all of a sudden takes a back seat to all of the difficulties that have entered his life.
The author captures so well the psychology of perfectionism, the drive to be always right, and the toll that it takes when it is discovered that being perfect is scarcely acknowledged, that being superior is a fragile psychological position, that intellectual rigor does not drive the world, and that it is hard to place women into a "perfect" slot, to say the least. And in this case, the rude awakening exerts its forces quickly and dramatically.
Perhaps the reader could hope for more, especially concerning Marcus' almost girlfriend. Yet, the author does succinctly and efficiently portray the complexities that await those who are or have been convinced that life will proceed without encumbrances, or who have not had the time to sufficiently mature. Interestingly, Marcus would have done well to fully appreciate his mother's newfound resolve to stick with his father despite his deteriorating behavior. Maybe a lesson delivered much too late.
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Houghton Mifflin Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Roth's brilliant and disconcerting new novel plumbs the depths of the early Cold War-era male libido, burdened as it is with sexual myths and a consciousness overloaded with vivid images of impending death, either by the bomb or in Korea. At least this is the way things appear to narrator Marcus Messner, the 19-year-old son of a Newark kosher butcher. Perhaps because Marcus's dad saw his two brothers' only sons die in WWII, he becomes an overprotective paranoid when Marcus turns 18, prompting Marcus to flee to Winesburg College in Ohio. Though the distance helps, Marcus, too, is haunted by the idea that flunking out of college means going to Korea. His first date in Winesburg is with doctor's daughter Olivia Hutton, who would appear to embody the beautiful normality Marcus seeks, but, instead, she destroys Marcus's sense of normal by surprising him after dinner with her carnal prowess. Slightly unhinged by this stroke of fortune, he at first shuns her, then pesters her with letters and finally has a brief but nonpenetrative affair with her. Olivia, he discovers, is psychologically fragile and bears scars from a suicide attempt — a mark Marcus's mother zeroes in on when she meets the girl for the first and last time. Between promising his mother to drop her and longing for her, Marcus goes through a common enough existential crisis, exacerbated by run-ins with the school administration over trivial matters that quickly become more serious. All the while, the reader is aware of something awful awaiting Marcus, due to a piece of information casually dropped about a third of the way in: 'And even dead, as I am and have been for I don't know how long...' The terrible sadness of Marcus's life is rendered palpable by Roth's fierce grasp on the psychology of this butcher's boy, down to his bought-for-Winesburg wardrobe. It's a melancholy triumph and a cogent reflection on society in a time of war. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly,
"Before he decided to dispense entirely with the respect of his readership — which must have been, oh, some years ago now — Philip Roth used to try to balance the quotidian with a larger theme. In novels like I Married a Communist and The Plot Against America, he sought to mesh the "micro" — most usually the familiar world of Jewish angst in New Jersey — with the "macro": the successive spasms of alarm and disorder that have punctuated modern American history....In Indignation, he varies the procedure a little." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"[A]s provocative as his astonishing Plot Against America....[A] fast-paced, compassionate, humorous, historically conscious novel..."
by Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review),
"The book has a taut, elegant symmetry....A twist in narrative perspective reinforces this novel's timelessness."
by Library Journal (Starred Review),
"A meditation on love, death, and madness, Roth's new novel combines the comic absurdity of his early novels like Portnoy's Complaint with the pathos of his later novels like Everyman and Exit Ghost."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"[P]erhaps we've been around these bends with him before, but he is a master....The shocking rush from this book comes from watching Roth expertly and quickly build up to a half-dozen final pages that absolutely deliver the kill. (Grade: A-)"
by USA Today,
"What the novel lacks in scale, it compensates for in its writing. Roth lovingly describes the bloodletting rituals of a kosher butcher."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Philip Roth is our greatest living novelist, and his new book, Indignation, is an irritating, puzzling and fascinating bundle of mistakes, miscalculations and self-indulgences."
by Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World,
"Here's a novel to be witnessed as an explosion from an author still angry enough to burn with adolescent rage and wise enough to understand how self-destructive that rage can be."
by The Miami Herald,
"[T]his book features some of Roth's most exuberant writing, especially in the brilliantly imagined confrontations between conservative authority and spirited independence on the pastoral campus of Winesburg."
by The Seattle Times,
"Indignation is impossible to put down until it's finished. Then, it's impossible to shake off the aftermath of this mesmerizing story."
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