Friday, September 24, 2004

Philip Roth and Trevin

I confess. I've always been a little scared of Philip Roth. No, not of the actual writer. Rather, I've deliberately avoided his novels. Everybody has told me how wonderful a writer he is, I've read such great reviews (yes, Peck hates him...but Peck is a hack who says nasty things probably because he doesn't have half of Roth's talent, and moreover hates Roth's style of writing) of his works, and I've read snippets that I quite enjoyed...and yet, I've never tried to broach his novels. I can't quite explain the fear, for that matter. Maybe it's the size of the books...or my worry that once I start, I'll have to read them all and there are so many other things I want to read.

That said...I'm about to embark on my first Philip Roth novel, The Plot Against America. Odd that, of all things, an alternate history novel is what finally got me to try him out. Okay, maybe not that odd. I've had a weakness for alternate history for a long time...something akin to my weakness for time travel stories. But odd in that Roth has other works that might have brought me in sooner (in particular, The Great American Novel which deals with baseball and'd think that would be an instant hook).

Anyway, once I finish the last fifty pages of Alan Furst's Dark Voyage, I intend to start on the Roth novel, a tale of an alternate early 1940's in which Charles Lindbergh, a devoted anti-semite and friend of the Third Reich, has become President. Folks out on the internet seem to have come to all sorts of conclusions about the novel and Roth's portrayal of a rather controversial figure (Lingbergh) and movement (America First!). There are those who still believe it was a mistake for the United States to get involved in the European War (Pat Buchanon and his ilk), who believe that it would have been better to let Stalin and Hitler slug it out until exhaustion and then waltz over both of them. I'm not certain that things are that simple. Most of these sorts of calls are from neo-isolationists who long for an America of the past - an America that abrogates its responsibility in the world. Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating us as global policeman. I simply believe that there are times when America needs to take a stand because the rest of the world either refuses or is unable to. That doesn't mean starting wars when there are other options (*cough* Iraq *cough*).

But that's not what I wanted to get at. Roth. Couple of interesting articles to read. The Guardian has a profile of him online. And last week, the Sunday NYT Book Review had an essay by Roth on his creative process for this work.

I'll be sure to post a review when I'm finished.


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