Philip Roth goes back to school


The first wave of reviews of Philip Roth’s newest novel, “Indignation,” are out this week. The book – which tells the story of the son of a New Jersey kosher butcher who flees to a Midwestern college to escape his neurotic father – clearly covers some well-worn Rothian territory. But the reviews are largely deferential, as befits to the only living writer ever to be canonized by the Library of America.

Below is a quick roundup of the latest. Also worth checking are Q&As with Roth from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News.

  • Jonathan Rosen (Slate): “I can’t help feeling that Roth is having a Judeo-Christian nightmare, possibly intensified by the rise of evangelical Christianity in America, which turns precious Rothian fluids into human stains. Or that he has discovered that since American culture has Jewish genes, there is for him no escape from the yoke of the Law.”
  • Tim Rutten (L.A. Times): ” … an irritating, puzzling and fascinating bundle of mistakes, miscalculations and self-indulgences.”
  • Louis Bayard (Salon) : “‘Indignation’ is almost comically well-titled: It’s an angry little morality play about the harm men can do.”
  • Richard Eder (Boston Globe): “Nobody pyramids a one-damn-thing-after-the-next emotional catastrophe as soaringly as Roth.”
  • Robert Allen Papinchak (Seattle Times): “… [an] intrepid novel of self-revelation, demands to be read in one sitting. It’s that good. It’s that audacious. It’s that compelling.”
  • Yvonne Zipp (Christian Science Monitor): “… the tragic flounderings of a father and son that seem foreordained to send the boy straight to the fate from which they were intended to save him.”
  • Bill Gallo (Rocky Mountain News): “… the much-celebrated and still much-misunderstood novelist Philip Roth cannot seem to shake the elegiac mood that’s engulfed him in the past decade. Perhaps he doesn’t want to.”

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