August 11, 2006

Books Mel Gibson probably wouldn't enjoy

Philip Roth is my current favorite author. He is an amazing writer. The amount of detail he puts into his plots is astounding. Equally overwhelming is his prodigiousness. Whereas some great writers have maybe one, or possibly two truly great works within them (like say, Joseph Heller), Roth keeps pumping them out.

I became interested in him after hearing a NPR segement about this list, compiled by a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, identifying "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years". Toni Morrison's Beloved was the top pick, but Roth had more of his novels selected than any of the other writers did. This lead the NPR commentators to conclude he is the great American author.

I started reading his stuff back in June with the classic Portnoy's Complaint (1969), which I loved. It was funny and sexy. But then I read the equally great American Pastoral (1998), a book that several times left me gasping with disbelief, and a couple of times choking back tears I was so moved. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, to find out what was going to happen to the characters. I just completed The Plot Against America (2004), and am still sort of digesting it. But it is also a very moving work. My only criticism of it would be that the plot is sometimes a little too farfetched. Here's a plot synopsis from Wikipedia:

"In 2004, novelist Philip Roth published The Plot Against America: A Novel, an alternate history where Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in 1940 in his bid for a third term as President of the United States, and Charles Lindbergh is elected. The novel follows the fortunes of the Roth family during the Lindbergh presidency, as anti-Semitism becomes more accepted in American life and Jewish-American families like the Roths are persecuted on various levels. The narrator and central character in the novel is the young Philip, and the care with which his confusion and terror are rendered makes the novel as much about the mysteries of growing up as about American politics. Roth based his novel on the isolationist ideas espoused by Lindbergh in real life as a spokesman for the America First Committee."

The only problem now is, I'll need to read all of his books. I'm hooked. You should check him out if you like to read novels. I'd start with American Pastoral. And not that it matters, but I am what the characters in all three books frequently refer to as a goy.

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