Wednesday, September 22, 2004

This Scummy Little Book 

Like F. Scott Fitzgerald's Amory Blaine, I've always had a bit of a fanatic heart that attached itself to lost causes. The history of the last couple centuries, it seemed to me, had mostly been one of the little peoples of the world trying and failing to stand up to the formidable host arrayed against them. So I get a bit of a thrill at the criticial beating of Phillip Roth's latest novel, which I understand has as its basic theme the celebration of the crushing of some of those those defiant little peoples (such as, Catholics, Middle Americans, rural people) in the 1940s.

As usual, the sage of Batavia, Bill Kauffman, gets all the best lines in his review: "Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America is the novel that a neoconservative would write, if a neoconservative could write a novel...The Plot Against America is the sort of novel a bootlicking author might write to curry favor with a totalitarian government...All that is left, I suppose, is for the author to collect his Presidential Medal of Freedom."

For the record, I thought that the Human Stain was a fantastic book. But I'll take Gore Vidal's The Golden Age and Kentucky's Wendell Berry over The Plot Against America and Newark's Phillip Roth any day. Sadly, based on the fate of most objects of my affection, this probably means Roth is the wave of the future.

Update: The New York Observer's Adam Begley reviews Roth's newest, heaping on the praise: "Two years of the nation's history are boldy reimagined...What's the point of this counterfactual fantasy? A daring imaginative exercise..."

What else is there to say? Begley's courageously inspired review lauding a book that unironically praises the American regime by smearing its defeated and long-deceased enemies, is nothing less than audaciously creative!

Isn't it cute when the Establishment puts on the mask of opposition and starts calling itself daring and bold?