"The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

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Upton_O_Goode
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"The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:22 pm

I'm about 2/3 through this little gem and thought I'd post about it. In a way, it's a sequel to Roth's heart-breaking novel "American Pastoral." It's set 30 years later, but the narrator is once again Roth's alter ego, the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It tells the story of a man named Coleman Silk, a professor of classics who had a great deal of pride in his work and refused to be intimidated by the cuckoo left-wing enforcers of political correctness on his campus. He resigns in protest. But the book is told in retrospect, and we learn that Silk actually had a very deep secret that he revealed to no one, not even his wife and children. Even to hint at what it was would be grossly unfair to both the author and the potential reader, so I'm going to leave that part out, and also (since I haven't myself found out yet) exactly what happened to Silk.

I've been a fan of Roth's writing ever since "Goodbye Columbus." The versatility of it overwhelms me. I wondered when I read "When She Was Good" where he got such an intimate understanding of the mentality of Midwestern Protestants, as his own background was east-coast and Jewish. He really knew what was going on inside their head. In this novel, he plays the same trick again, through Silk's New York girl friend Steena from Minnesota, who says, "My mother's too practical to be submerged. The characteristics of her family—and I don't think it's peculiar to that family, I think Danes are this way, and they're not too different from Norwegians in this way either—they're interested in objects. Objects Tablecloths. Dishes, Vases. they talk endlessly about how much each object costs. My mother's father is like this too, my grandfather Rasmussen. Her whole family. They don't have any dreams in them. They don't have any unreality. Everything is made up of objects and what they cost and how much you can get them for. She goes into people's houses and examines all the objects and knows where they got half of them and tells them where they could have got them for less. And clothing. Each object of clothing. Same thing. Practicality. A bare-boned practicality about the whole bunch of them. Thrifty. Extremely thrifty. Clean. Extremely clean... So that's my parents. I can't get to the bottom with her particularly. On anything. It's all surface. She's organizing everything and my father's disorganizing everything, and so I got to be eighteen and graduated high school and came here."

I read that and thought, "Yes, that's the family I came from all right, down to the smallest detail. Not the slightest interest in anything that isn't a physical object or a planned activity."

So, Roth is, in my view, the greatest living American author, and this is another of his masterpieces.
"Reserve a part of your wrath ; you have not seen the worst yet. You suppose that this war has been a criminal blunder and an exceptional horror ; you imagine that before long reason will prevail, and all these inferior people that govern the world will be swept aside, and your own party will reform everything and remain always in office. You are mistaken."

George Santayana, "Tipperary" (1918)

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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Tom Palven » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:16 pm

I ordered The Human Stain from Amazon, and also Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, which looks pretty daunting, but was highly recommended, and they should arrive soon.

I also want to mention the article lined below, which seems to make a great case that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. To me it seems iron-clad, a no-brainer, but a short search on the web found scant mention of this.
https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/08/don ... akespeare/

Wikipedia's mention of the authorship question:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespea ... p_question
Last edited by Tom Palven on Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:22 pm

Character studies are a bit like horoscopes. Right in every detail..........and totally off the mark. You think all of group X is the same huh?

................................. Its fun to think, but it just ain't so.

Edit: to be "fair"....I suppose some attributes may occur more in some groups than other groups...but is it "the group" or some other factors like location, general economic situation or whatever? Mostly what is being noted is a recollection that the description at issue has been noticed..........but........ almost "all" descriptions do apply..... like horoscopes.
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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Tom Palven » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:33 pm

Received The Human Stain. Only on page 27, but am enjoying it, and was happy to find that it's a novel and not non-fiction.

Just finished the 4-volume Edge of Nowhere series by Elizabeth George.
https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Nowhere-Eli ... eth+george

Both Marge and I love her Inspector Lynley mysteries, but the Edge of Nowhere series is aimed at teen-agers. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a niece, nephew, or grandchild who may be struggling with sexual identity issues or any kind of teen angst to give as a gift, and even fairly stable oldsters might like them. I did, just as I liked the Harry Potter series.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Upton_O_Goode » Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:19 pm

Tom Palven wrote:Received The Human Stain. Only on page 27, but am enjoying it, and was happy to find that it's a novel and not non-fiction.

Just finished the 4-volume Edge of Nowhere series by Elizabeth George.
https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Nowhere-Eli ... eth+george

Both Marge and I love her Inspector Lynley mysteries, but the Edge of Nowhere series is aimed at teen-agers. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a niece, nephew, or grandchild who may be struggling with sexual identity issues or any kind of teen angst to give as a gift, and even fairly stable oldsters might like them. I did, just as I liked the Harry Potter series.


Thanks for the recommendation. I also am a fan of Inspector Lynley on videotape. Glad you're enjoying the Roth book.
"Reserve a part of your wrath ; you have not seen the worst yet. You suppose that this war has been a criminal blunder and an exceptional horror ; you imagine that before long reason will prevail, and all these inferior people that govern the world will be swept aside, and your own party will reform everything and remain always in office. You are mistaken."

George Santayana, "Tipperary" (1918)

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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Tom Palven » Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:57 pm

Upton_O_Goode wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:Received The Human Stain. Only on page 27, but am enjoying it, and was happy to find that it's a novel and not non-fiction.

Just finished the 4-volume Edge of Nowhere series by Elizabeth George.
https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Nowhere-Eli ... eth+george

Both Marge and I love her Inspector Lynley mysteries, but the Edge of Nowhere series is aimed at teen-agers. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a niece, nephew, or grandchild who may be struggling with sexual identity issues or any kind of teen angst to give as a gift, and even fairly stable oldsters might like them. I did, just as I liked the Harry Potter series.


Thanks for the recommendation. I also am a fan of Inspector Lynley on videotape. Glad you're enjoying the Roth book.


I hope my recommendation is as valuable as yours is to me. I'm on page 77 at the moment and enjoying it even more than before.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Re: "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth

Postby Tom Palven » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:56 am

Just finished the book.

Enjoyed it very much.

Wish the ending had been a little longer, including the visit to Ernestine's house, but it is what it is.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire


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