• by Philip Roth
  • Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris
  • 5 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This is the startling theme of Philip Roth's 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 23-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 Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground and on the everyday realities he faces, Roth leads us through every inch of the emotions such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, anger, bewilderment, suffering, and 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?


What the Critics Say

"Nemesis stands out for its warmth. It is suffused with precise and painful tenderness…. The architecture of Roth's sentences is almost invisibly elegant; not only doesn't one notice the art, one barely notices the sentence, registering instead pure function: meaning, rhythm, intent." (The New York Times Book Review)
"The fourth in the great and undiminished Roth's recent cycle of short novels.... [A]s exceptional as those novels are, this latest in the series far exceeds its predecessors in both emotion and intellect." (Booklist)
"Having the youthful-sounding Dennis Boutsikaris narrate a book written by an older man is an interesting production choice. Philip Roth wrestles with some of the more harrowing themes of aging in his recent work. The story is told from the perspective of a 23-year-old man who is weathering a polio epidemic in 1943. But it is clearly coming from the wisdom and perspective of one of the elders in American letters. This disparity serves the audio production well. Boutsikaris lends a credibility to the novel’s observations and to their source, strengthening the protagonist’s 'voice' while losing none of the wisdom gleaned from the author’s having been there, long ago." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

More Man Fic

I am finding these later Philip Roth novels too full of men and manly activities, manly thoughts. As Roth's elegant, luxuriant prose rambles on and on about guy stuff, the reader - at least this reader - becomes almost annoyed. It's enough already! As a lover of the English language and a logophile, and especially as a Philip Roth fan, I just hate to see this happen. He sounds like nothing more or less than the loquacious old uncle, loving to hear himself talk, at a holiday dinner and I want to be excused from the table.

Add to that, these two characters are not interesting in themselves, only interesting because of their disease. And Roth keeps on using the word "crippled", in accordance, I assume, with the language of the day. But it's still a cringe-worthy word.

I also had difficulty figuring out who was talking - the narrator or the main character. The novel is told by an acquaintance of Bucky Cantor, not by the protagionist, Cantor, and the confusion of the two was not resolved well.

I will say this in favor of the narrator. He is the voice of Philip Roth, and I enjoyed listening to his accent-free, gimmick- and drama-free reading.

I want Philip Roth to go back to writing novels like The Human Stain, full of conflict and relationship ambiguity, instead of this manly stuff.
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- Pamela Harvey "glam"

This Kid got it, that kid got it...

After listening and liking Indignation, I wanted to listen to more by Roth. This book is good in the historical sense. You get a feeling of what life was like back then, especially for Jews and all kids. My dad was born in 1935 and he never learned how to swim, cause his parents would not let him go to a public pool, afraid he would get polio. It was a scary time for Americans.

While I believe it is important to be reminded, I believe a novel should be a novel and a research paper a research paper. This book meanders all over the place. Character development was nihil. Roth gives us a list of kids who contract the disease, he gives us a list of what the common people believe causes it, but it is at the cost of the story or lack there of. He also gives us commentary. I might as well had taken a college course.
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- Jim "The Impatient" "My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios