Thursday, January 19, 2006

Book No. 2: The Plot Against America - Philip Roth

At least one of my esteemed literati geek pals has talked about how much he hated this book, but I thought it was ok, given that the conceit was preposterous. Considering that the only Roth I have to compare it with is Portnoy's Complaint, which I didn't care for, this was much better, like Phillip Dick's The Man In The High Castle as told by a nine-year-old Jewish boy. Well, not quite that good.

In fact, it wasn't great. There were long passages that were simply tedious, and if Roth weren't considered one of the Great American Writers, I'd hope that an editor would have trimmed some of the fat from the story. But he's a lauded, prize-winning novelist, so we're stuck with the chunk.

The essence of the story was compelling, however. Roth imagines how a child might deal with suddenly becoming an oppressed minority, and he does it fairly well. If there were no Diary of Anne Frank, it would likely be towards the top of such literature. And so: The Plot Against America is OK, neither great literature nor absolute junk. If I gave letter grades, it would get a C+/B-.

I understand that American Pastoral is the Roth to read, so I reserve final judgment on whether I will continue to read his novels until I read that one. If his advocates claimed that Portnoy's Complaint and this one were the best the man had done, though, I would stop here.


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