Monday, April 26, 2010
Philip Roth simply cranks out high-quality high-interest novels. I devoured this one in a couple afternoons spent soaking in the tub. Marcus Messner is a bright young man brought up by his hard-working parents who run their own kosher butcher shop in Newark, NJ. Marcus learns the value of education at a young age because he decides he doesn't care to spend the rest of his life yanking vicera out of chicken carcasses. But he never belittles the achievements or the efforts of his parents, whom he dearly loves, until at age 18 his father goes a bit paranoid, worrying constantly that Marcus is going to die in an accident or knock up a girl and get VD.
His father's hectoring drives Marcus to leave Newark and go to a conservative and traditional college in Ohio, where Jews are a tiny minority. All Marcus wants to do is study and to be valedictorian, but a sexual encounter with a crazy chick, an appendectomy, and long-distance meddling via a fraternity leader by his parents lead to a series of small catastrophes which completely derail Marcus' plans. The results are funny, but terribly tragic too.
Indignation portrays small-town American at the height of the Cold War, where families whose sons were spared the calamity of WW2 now find their own children dying in Korea. The Soviets are exploding bombs and everyone is on edge, yet life goes on, jangly and sweet, nonetheless. I dug it.