Synopses & Reviews
A frank, intelligent, and deeply moving debut memoir
With the precociousness expected of the only child of a doctor and a classical musician—from the time he could get his toddler tongue to a pronounce a word like “De-oxy ribonucleic acid,” or recite a French poem—Marco Roth was able to share his parents New York, a world centered around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and dinner discussions of the latest advances in medicine. That world ended when his father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s.
What this family could not talk about for years came to dominate the lives of its surviving members, often in unexpected ways. The Scientists is a story of how we first learn from our parents and how we then learn to see them as separate individuals; its a story of how precociousness can slow us down when it comes to knowing about our desires and other peoples. A memoir of parents and children in the tradition of Edmund Gosse, Henry Adams, and J.R. Ackerley, The Scientists grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance, in a style that is both elegiac and defiant.
"In this powerfully forlorn debut memoir, literary critic Roth mines the silence and shame he experienced growing up on Central Park West in the 1980s and '90s as his scientist father died of AIDS. Never allowed to reveal to anyone at his elite Dalton School the truth of his father's debilitating health, which the young only child was told had resulted from a freak needle accident with an infected patient in his father's malaria research lab at Mount Sinai Hospital, the author tried to assume the normalcy enacted by his mother, a pianist and artists' grants writer, yet the adolescent was haunted by his own sense of inadequacy and inability to save his father. Before he died in 1993, when the author was 19, the father, an old-school liberal Jewish New Yorker exquisitely educated in literature and the arts, had imparted some of his favorite books to his son, like Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh and Goncharov's Oblomov: these became clues to Roth's own unhappiness and dissatisfaction while in college at Oberlin, then Columbia, and provided precious emotional links with his father. The publication of his aunt Anne Roiphe's memoir 1185 Park Avenue, essentially outing her brother (Roth's father) as a homosexual, floored the author, and he tried to get at the truth, both from his aunt and from his mother, which eluded him. Roth's work is a ferocious literary exercise in rage, despair, and artistic self-invention. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue
, Los Angeles Times
, and The New Republic
New York Times Book Review Editors Choice
A FRANK, INTELLIGENT, AND DEEPLY MOVING DEBUT MEMOIR
The precocious only child of a doctor and a classical musician, Marco Roth was able to share his parents New York. Theirs was a world that revolved around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and discussions of the latest advances in medicine—and one that ended when Marcos father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s. What this family could not talk about for years came to dominate the lives of its surviving members, with surprising and often devastating effects. Written in the tradition of Edmund Gosse, Henry Adams, and J. R. Ackerley, The Scientists is a book that grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance—the ways in which we learn from our parents, and then learn to see them separately from ourselves.
About the Author
Marco Roth was raised amid the vanished liberal culture of Manhattans Upper West Side. After studying comparative literature at Columbia and Yale, he helped found the magazine n+1, in 2004. Recipient of the 2011 Shattuck prize for literary criticism, he lives in Philadelphia. This is his first book.