Synopses & Reviews
In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roths wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children. At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantors dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground—and on the everyday realities he faces—Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain. Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine childrens summer camp high in the Poconos—whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"—Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantors passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood. Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roths late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?
Roth continues his string of small anti–Horatio Alger novels (The Humbling; etc.) with this underwhelming account of Bucky Cantor the young playground director of the Chancellor Avenue playground in 1944 Newark. When a polio outbreak ravages the kids at the playground Bucky a hero to the boys becomes spooked and gives in to the wishes of his fiancée who wants him to take a job at the Pocono summer camp where she works. But this being a Roth novel Bucky can't hide from his fate. Fast forward to 1971 when Arnie Mesnikoff the subtle narrator and one of the boys from Chancellor runs into Bucky now a shambles and hears the rest of his story of piercing if needless guilt bad luck and poor decisions. Unfortunately Bucky's too simple a character to drive the novel and the traits that make him a good playground director not very bright quite polite beloved straight thinking make him a lackluster protagonist. For Roth it's surprisingly timid. (Oct.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"Roth continues his string of small, anti Horatio Alger novels (The Humbling; etc.) with this underwhelming account of Bucky Cantor, the young playground director of the Chancellor Avenue playground in 1944 Newark. When a polio outbreak ravages the kids at the playground, Bucky, a hero to the boys, becomes spooked and gives in to the wishes of his fiancÃ©e, who wants him to take a job at the Pocono summer camp where she works. But this being a Roth novel, Bucky can't hide from his fate. Fast-forward to 1971, when Arnie Mesnikoff, the subtle narrator and one of the boys from Chancellor, runs into Bucky, now a shambles, and hears the rest of his story of piercing if needless guilt, bad luck, and poor decisions. Unfortunately, Bucky's too simple a character to drive the novel, and the traits that make him a good playground director--not very bright, quite polite, beloved, straight thinking--make him a lackluster protagonist. For Roth, it's surprisingly timid. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Booklist, Starred review of the day
The fourth in the great and undiminished Roth's recent cycle of short novels ... this latest in the series far exceeds its predecessors in both emotion and intellect. ... Our hero, and he proves truly heroic, is Bucky Canter, playground director in the Jewish neighborhood of Newark. ... What happens is heartbreaking, but the joy of having met Bucky redeems any residual sadness. - Brad Hooper
Kirkus Reviews, Starred featured review
For those who monitor the growing list of books by Philip Roth, his forthcoming, Nemesis, presents a revelation as startling as the discovery of a planet or the alignment of a new constellation... Nemesis could be the darkest novel Roth has written and ranks with the most provocative. Its a parable of innocence lost in the authors native Newark, where polio threatens a neighborhood that is already sacrificing young men to World War II.
"NEMESIS presents a revelation as startling as the discovery of a planet or the alignment of a new constellation... Nemesis
could be the darkest novel Roth has written and ranks with the most provocative." -- Kirkus Reviews
, starred "The fourth in the great and undiminished Roth's recent cycle of short novels follows Everyman
(2008), and The Humbling
(2009), and as exceptional as those novels are, this latest in the series far exceeds its predecessors in both emotion and intellect." --Booklist,
starred Book of the Day, 7/22 "Roth, one of our greatest American writers, is unrivaled in his mastery at evoking mid-20th- century New Jersey, but it's the thoughtful examination of the toll guilt takes on the psyche, the futility of raging against God or Fate, and the danger of turning blame inward that give this short novel its power." — Library Journal,
starred, August 2010 "Yet another small triumph, and by small I mean in length....This dual portrait, of a neighborhood and of a man quite representative of the times when trouble struck his neighborhood with lethal force, gives this new novel a singular appeal." - Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered and Chicago Tribune
, Oct. 5 "Roth's book has the elegance of a fable and the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama." - The New Yorker
, Oct. 18
"like a very well-executed O. Henry story, a parable about the embrace of conscience... and what its suffocating, life-denying consequences can be." -- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times "Set mostly in Newark in 1944 and suffused with tenderness, Roth's novel tells the story of a military reject, a young phys ed teacher, who turns a polio out-break into his own patriotic battleground." --New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice, Oct. 17 "Philip Roth has done it again! For his 32nd book, Americas outstanding writer has once again demonstrated his mastery of the short novel with his newest contribution, Nemesis. This achievement is especially noteworthy since Roth is now 77 years old, but advanced age has not dimmed his unusual capacity to engage and delight his readers." - The Jewish Chronicle "Moving....A sad beauty is found in Roth's details and descripions...Nemesis is painful and powerful." -- Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"Roth has done something more wicked than ever before: he has dared to write a wrenching, compaionate, intelligent novel about the life of a good man." Boston Globe
"One of Mr. Roth's most powerful novels ever, a big, rough-hewn work built on a grand design . . . A fiercely affecting work of art." The New York Times
"American Pastoral deconstructed the radical hysteria of the late 1960s . . . [I Married a Communist] deconstructs the reactionary hysteria of the early 1950s . . . Mr. Roth has the frantic politics of this frantic time in exact pitch . . . I Married a Communist is a remarkable work -- remarkable in its stringent observation of American life, remarkable in its poignant sense of the contradictions and pathos of human existence, remarkable in its style and in its wisdom." -- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., New York Observer
"Never before has Roh written fiction with such clear conviction." Time Magazine
"Roth is still at the top of his game . . . one heavy hitter who's playing for keeps." Newsweek
"A writer's late books, beset by flagging energy and invention, rarely add major works to the literary legacy. But they can be fascinating as they revisit earlier themes with fresh lenses: a pitiless awareness of aging, an encroaching sense of mortality. Roth's recent novels are obsessed with death but also focus on all that can lead up to it, illness of every kind, waning physical powers, impotence, as well as also memory loss, loneliness, and depression. Sometimes these books are salted with anger at the young, simply for being young, having all that time ahead of them, but they also pulse with sexual attraction to the young, also for being young." Morris Dickstein, The Daily Beast
(Read the entire Daily Beast review
A new novel by the legendary author.
Radio actor Iron Rinn (born Ira Ringold) is a big Newark roughneck blighted by a brutal personal secret from which he is perpetually in flight. An idealistic Communist, a self-educated ditchdigger turned popular performer, a six-foot six-inch Abe Lincoln look-alike, he marries the nation's reigning radio actress and beloved silent-film star, the exquisite Eve Frame (born Chava Fromkin). Their marriage evolves from a glamorous, romantic idyll into a dispiriting soap opera of tears and treachery. And with Eve's dramatic revelation to the gossip columnist Bryden Grant of her husband's life of "espionage" for the Soviet Union, the relationship enlarges from private drama into national scandal. Set in the heart of the McCarthy era, the story of Iron Rinn's denunciation and disgrace brings to harrowing life the human drama that was central to the nation's political tribulations in the dark years of betrayal, the blacklist, and naming names. I Married a Communist is an American tragedy as only Philip Roth could write it.
About the Author
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral.
In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 The Plot Against America
received the Society of American Historians prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004" and the W.H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year, making Roth the first writer in the forty-six-year history of the prize to win it twice.
In 2005 Roth became the third living American writer to have his works published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. In 2012 he won Spains highest honor, the Prince of Asturias Award, and in 2013 he received Frances highest honor, Commander of the Legion of Honor.