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“Of a terrible, the incomprehensible way one's most banal, incidental, even comical choices archive the most disproportionate result.”
― Philip Roth, Indignation
There was a period when I hated Roth's small books. I loved his big, strong, hefty books. I thought DeLillo and Roth's novella periods were horrible indulgences; vanity projects meant to expel some small idea, some festering detail yet unexplored in their earlier masterpieces. A prose zit popping. I still think they are a bit indulgent and not as good as Roth and DeLillo's great works, but I guess as I get a bit older, I become less indignant of things that matter little, really.
Anyway, this novella moved up my list because several Roth books have recently been made into movies and this looked like one my wife and I would go to together. So, I brought home my small, beautiful, yet unread, autographed copy of Roth's 'Indignation'.
My wife read it first, and finished it. That was a good sign. She has a very low toleration for crap and where I MUST finish something, she has no problem abandoning a novel if it doesn't measure up to her minute-by-minute standards (this creates a bit of uncertainty in our marriage and keeps me on my toes). She felt it was a bit darker than she typically likes. Once, early in our marriage, my wife summarized my literary taste as "older white men with sexual issues". Obviously, reading Roth is bound to solidify that stereotype.
When I started reading the novel, I was tickled to find a bunch of not-so-subtle allusions to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Anderson's book of related short stories seems to have been an inspiration, or at least a harbinger of, of this later Roth novella. While I don't love this book as much as Anderson's book, I still enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy a book about death, loneliness, isolation, rigidity, and indignation). It was tight, beautiful, and also strange and sad. IT was a Philip Roth novella.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Philip Roth and/or Ray Chase?
Nope. I have been off Mr. Roth since Portnoy's Complaint, and this book reminds me of why I have neither read nor listened to anything of his for decades. He was remarkably immature when he wrote about masturbating into his family's dinner some forty years ago. In all this time, he has not grown up and out of his adolescent preoccupations. The semi-final scene in the book, which is set in a fictional town called Winesburg, Ohio, at the university there: the scene is actually a very large panty-raid by the male students! Panty raids? Are we still talking about shite like this in 2016?
What do you think your next listen will be?
Something very different from this.
How could the performance have been better?
Mr. Chase has very limited talents, a good match for the material, actually. He reads so fast that you can't keep up, and after a while you don't care to.
Could you see Indignation being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
It is already a wonderful movie. See it. The stars are Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon. I had never heard of either, but they both are terrific. The movie is so much better than the book. It treats very complicated material with sensitivity. I won't spoil the plot for you, but I will say that these two young people fall in love very quickly at the ridiculously repressive University of Winesburg. The Dean of Men is a great villain: a self-righteous, bullying, intrusive, Jew-baiting, hyper-Christian who interrogates Marcus Messner as if he were already proven guilty of rape and other crimes against humanity. Sarah Gadon is a match for Lerman. Portraying a tormented young woman who, uh, surprises Marcus on their first date, she is utterly true in every scene.
Any additional comments?
Pretty obvious how much I enjoyed this, eh? Don't waste your money on the book, when the movie is being reviewed by some as the best drama of the year.
7 of 10 people found this review helpful
just as much as their strength can. Weak people are not harmless. Their weakness can be their strength."
Philip Roth, Indignation
An amazing little book, full of indignant rage at life's inequities, at the power of small events unravelling entire lives, Especially for the young and their certainty that they have got it.
A masterpiece of how to bring characters to life, with a complex multilayered plot that hides a parable for modern times, where morals and beliefs change faster than ever stripping all value of things we held as certainty or immutable.
A book that leaves you pondering at all the little injustices, that can set a cascade of events in motion that will change it all.
“what his uneducated father had been trying so hard to teach him all along: of the terrible, the incomprehensible way one’s most banal, incidental, even comical choices achieve the most disproportionate result.”
― Philip Roth, Indignation
8 of 12 people found this review helpful