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Indignation [Paperback]

Philip Roth

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Book Description

Sept. 8 2009

It is 1951, the second year of the Korean War. Marcus Messner, a law-abiding youngster from Newark, New Jersey, is beginning his sophomore year at pastoral, conservative Winesburg College in Ohio. Why is he here? Because his father, the hard-working neighbourhood butcher, seems to have gone mad— mad with fear and apprehension of the dangers of adult life, the dangers of the world, the dangers he sees in every corner for his beloved boy.

Indignation, the tale of a young man's education in life's terrifying chances and bizarre obstructions, is a story of inexperience, sexual discovery, courage, and error. It is a powerful addition to Roth's investigations of the impact of American history on the life of the vulnerable individual.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (Sept. 8 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143170422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143170426
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 12.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #364,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Roth's brilliant and disconcerting new novel plumbs the depths of the early Cold War–era male libido, burdened as it is with sexual myths and a consciousness overloaded with vivid images of impending death, either by the bomb or in Korea. At least this is the way things appear to narrator Marcus Messner, the 19-year-old son of a Newark kosher butcher. Perhaps because Marcus's dad saw his two brothers' only sons die in WWII, he becomes an overprotective paranoid when Marcus turns 18, prompting Marcus to flee to Winesburg College in Ohio. Though the distance helps, Marcus, too, is haunted by the idea that flunking out of college means going to Korea. His first date in Winesburg is with doctor's daughter Olivia Hutton, who would appear to embody the beautiful normality Marcus seeks, but, instead, she destroys Marcus's sense of normal by surprising him after dinner with her carnal prowess. Slightly unhinged by this stroke of fortune, he at first shuns her, then pesters her with letters and finally has a brief but nonpenetrative affair with her. Olivia, he discovers, is psychologically fragile and bears scars from a suicide attempt—a mark Marcus's mother zeroes in on when she meets the girl for the first and last time. Between promising his mother to drop her and longing for her, Marcus goes through a common enough existential crisis, exacerbated by run-ins with the school administration over trivial matters that quickly become more serious.... The terrible sadness of Marcus's life is rendered palpable by Roth's fierce grasp on the psychology of this butcher's boy, down to his bought-for-Winesburg wardrobe. It's a melancholy triumph and a cogent reflection on society in a time of war. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"In a plot that evokes the author's earlier work, Roth (Exit Ghost, 2007, etc.) focuses on a young man's collegiate coming of age against the deadly backdrop of the Korean War. The book has a taut, elegant symmetry....A twist in narrative perspective reinforces this novel's timelessness." Kirkus Reviews, Starred "As provocative as his astonishing The Plot Against America...[A] fast-paced, compassionate, humorous, historically-conscious novel..." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review "We can see again his shocking ability to bring history to bear on the present. As always, the rpose is well built -- sinewy and graceful -- and, as always, the wit is as sharp as a German knife. There are simply no novels by Roth in which you cannot detect the hand of a master. -- Vince Passaro O, The Oprah Magazine ..".there's a lovely perplexedness to the writing here...It's a terrific book..." Gentleman's Quarterly "Of how many writers can it be said that they're still producing some of their best work well into their 70s? With [Indignation], his 24th novel, Philip Roth proves beyond any dispute that he deserves to be counted in that select group." Bookpage A meditation on love, death, and madness, Roth's new novel combines the comic absurdity of his early novel like Portnoy's Complaint with the pathos of his later novels like Everyman and Exit Ghost.Library Journal Starred "Roth has been burning up the track for well over a decade now ... And in INDIGNATION his power and intensity seem undiminished...Roth's secret, I think, is his supreme confidence as a storyteller -- and, paradoxically, a supreme humility...Of all Roth's recent novels, it ventures farthest into the unknowable. In his unshowy way, with all his quotidian specificity and merciless skepticism, Roth is attempting to storm heaven -- an endeavor all the more desperately daring because he seems dead certain it's not there." -- David Gates, on the cover of The New York Times B --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  133 reviews
73 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There Will Be Blood Oct. 2 2008
By R. W. Rasband - Published on Amazon.com
Butchery and blood are recurring images in Philip Roth's scalding new novel which is probably his darkest comedy since Sabbath's Theater. The images are shocking yet appropriate since this little novel deals with a big subject: what someone once called "the meat-grinder of history." Many of Roth's familiar elements are here. The naive young Jewish hero meets up with an unstable gentile girl in the 1950's and farce ensues. But this is 1951 and the Korean War hovers over the story like a thundercloud. I wasn't very enthusiastic about Roth's last couple of novels which seemed rather flaccid to me. But this one has suspense, narrative drive and storytelling fury that recall his great "American" novels of 10 years ago, only in concentrated form. "Indignation" left me wrung out, like you hope a novel will do for you.

Marcus Messner announces on page 54 that he is dead (this is no great spoiler, believe me.) The dead narrator is a time-honored narrative strategy in film noir (see Sunset Boulevard (Special Collector's Edition) and the novels of Jim Thompson, especially Savage Night) and it's interesting to see how Roth uses it. Although there may be an alternative explanation for Marcus' state; check the chapter titles. As he tells his story we learn how he came to die. Practically driven out of his home by his loving but suddenly paranoid kosher butcher father, he flees to go to college in the same town as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (Signet Classics). The smart but inexperienced boy finds himself way over his head. He is flummoxed by a beautiful girl he dates and is unable to tolerate either a flamboyant gay roommate or the strictly conservative college administration with its Christian affiliation. Instead of laughing it off and making the best of it, as apparently Roth in real life was able to at Bucknell, Marcus goes to war with his surroundings. His private mantra becomes the Chinese national anthem he learned in grade school with its refrain "indignation, arise!" And in a hideous irony it is the Chinese army that butchers Marcus on a hill in Korea some months later.

This is a remarkable book: a terrible tragedy with farce, a funny book where the laughs catch in your throat. It once again displays Roth's famous psychological toughness; no one is let off the hook here. And Roth plays fair; although he displays what is coming to be his obvious disdain for religion of all kinds, he shows Marcus playing a role in his own destruction through the kid's own intolerance and pride. Although the president of the college is a Republican political hack (as Roth sees it), the author lets him deliver the theme of the novel in a thunderous speech near the end of the book: you may try to hide from history: but like Jonah inside the whale, it will find you.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It needed something more Oct. 26 2009
By Reading Wasp - Published on Amazon.com
I have always enjoyed Philip Roth's work and this was no exception. The plot was interesting and characters vivid. The tale of a Jewish boy, who is the first generation to attend the school is universal in many ways. The inability to fit in, the cultural issues and the non functional family are something most of us can relate to. The reason I gave this book three stars is because I felt that there was something missing. It was almost like in the last part of the book, author got bored of the book and just wanted to end it. The end was abrupt and almost incomplete. However, maybe that is the moral of the book - the end is abrupt and there is no real plan in life.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books of all time April 27 2010
By Derrick Hibbard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recently picked up this little book--my first exposure to Philip Roth--and was completely blown away. Someone described Roth as writing "perfect novels," and I think that this might just have been perfect. Short, concise, yet rich and descriptive. When you read this book, you are carried away into a different time, when things were simpler, yet so much more complex. You connect with the narrator because we've all been where he is--or at least, we've all experienced similar things--horrible roommates, rocky relationships with parents and authority figures, first love, first break-ups, and crazy adolescents.

The ending caught me by surprise--and the sheer irony of it all reminded me of life itself--no matter what happens, or what we do, life just marches on... Sometimes in the way we least expect it.

Great book, would certainly recommend.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indignation - my take Dec 27 2008
By Emily R. Odza - Published on Amazon.com
Do we each have a turning point or series of turning points in our lives that lead us to our fate? Or do we simply have things happen to us, in combination with our childhoods, our makeup, our genetics and the world events which catch us up, which in all their minutiae add up to "fate?" This is a small perfect book about which one should say nothing so that its progression and its surprises are not telegraphed in advance!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prolific Roth Keeps Rolling Oct. 22 2009
By David A. Moyer - Published on Amazon.com
Unlike some Roth books, in which he seems to be outrageous for the sole purpose of provoking the reader, this book can stand with his best work. It sits aside The Human Stain as a personal favorite of mine. He seemlessly weaves the the story of the main character into the historical backdrop of the Korean War, working in the timeless themes of parent-child relationships, love, and the human desire to make sense of the chaos around them. It served as an inspiration for my book, Life and Life Only. Roth seems in a hurry to write as much as he can while he can, yet the writings of his recent years are carefully crafted and a joy to read.

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