Sunday, September 9, 2007
More of a recommendation than a review.
Some great writers fall into bad habits. Some write the same story over and over again. Some have a terrific spurt of energy early in their career, only to fade away with time, their later works never quite reaching the standard of the books with which they made their reputation.
Neither of these things can be said of Philip Roth.
Roth first came to public attention for the books Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, both of which were turned into films. My personal favorite of his early novels is The Great American Novel, about an old, possibly dotty sportswriter who clearly remembers a third major baseball league that everyone else has forgotten. While there are many more recent books in his career to recommend, a popular choice is American Pastoral, for which he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize.
If you want to read just one recent Roth novel, Matty Boy would modestly suggest The Plot Against America from 2004. The novel revolves around the 1940 election, where the Republicans decide to nominate Charles Lindbergh for president, and a somewhat more shadowy figure for vice president. While the story discusses many aspects of this alternate history, the focus rests on the Roth family, with young Philip growing up in New Jersey, feeling the effects of living in a country that signs a non-aggression pact with Hitler's Germany.
In 2004, many artists made statements with their art that could be seen as cries in the wilderness, hoping that America would pull away from the destructive path of the first four years of the Bush administration. Sadly, that didn't happen and things have gotten worse, not only in Iraq but in ways that we wouldn't have considered possible in America a few short years ago. This book can be read as an allegory for modern times, but it also stands on its own as a great work of alternative history.
Matty Boy says check it out.