Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Plot Against America

I just finished Philip Roth's novel, "The Plot Against America." Definitely my favorite book of his, and one of the best books I've read in a long time. The story imagines an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh (the aviator, bereaved parent, and Hitler sympathizer) beat FDR in the election of 1940. After signing pacts with Germany and Japan and watching the war creep across the continents, the Lindbergh Administration slowly starts making moves toward a final solution of its own - creating on Office of American Absorption to de-Jew the Jews, and forcibly relocating Jewish families from their long-established neighborhoods.

On top of all this grim alterna-history, which is fascinating in itself, is a simple and touching portrait of the narrator's family, the Roths - his admirable older brother, his hardworking and smart mother, his tireless and decent father. The narrator, Philip Roth, is the autobiographical duplicate of his creator, and the narrative voice has an adult's grasp of the language (better than an adult's grasp, he's Philip Roth for crying out loud) and a child's simplicity and moral clarity. I was engrossed in the Jersey neighborhoods of the 1940s, of the extended social networks that were dashed and the conflicting impulses that echo in the public discourse today - about the willingness to stand up for our beliefs, about the fear of death and war, about the fear of strangers and the fears of our neighbors.

This books was so profoundly good. It was worth the wait for the paperback version. I devoured it in four days and could not put it down. I thought about it in class. It was fantastic. So I recommend it to the greater blogosphere.

Happy Thanksgiving - flying back home tomorrow, will return on Saturday to face final exams in a little over two weeks.

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