Indignation

  

September 16th to be National Indignation Day. It’s a clever publicity gimmick featuring Roth in a live broadcast to bookstores nationwide. Some of us don’t confine our indignation to a single day and Roth knows that. As one reviewer already has said, every Philip Roth book could be titled Indignation. His protagonists in early best-sellers such as Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint were young and indignant. Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s alter ego in a series of later novels, was older, but no less indignant. In the new novel, Roth returns to the youthful perspective. Marcus Messner is the son of a kosher butcher in Newark, but his parents are not religious—so there’s no rebellion against the strictures of Judaism familiar to readers of Roth’s early work.  Marcus has other matters irritating him. For one, his father has become extremely overprotective and paranoid, causing Marcus to leave Newark for Winesburg, Ohio, the title town of a Sherwood Anderson work published in 1919.  At Winseburg College, Marcus is free of his father but not free of small town narrow-mindedness, invasions of privacy and the absence of intellectual curiosity. Roth’s novel is set in the early 1950’s when Americas were focused on the Korean War and fears that godless communists were trying to infiltrate our institutions. Marcus is also dealing with his sexual awakening at a time when colleges acted as extensions of one’s parents. Yes, there’s plenty to be indignant about.  Philip Roth is one our most highly-acclaimed writers, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.  

Bob