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Summary

Summary

It is 1951 in America, the second year of the Korean War. A studious, law-abiding, intense youngster from Newark, New Jersey, Marcus Messner, is beginning his sophomore year on the pastoral, conservative campus of Ohio's Winesburg College. And why is he there and not at a local college in Newark where he originally enrolled? Because his father, the sturdy, hard-working neighborhood 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. As the long-suffering, desperately harassed mother tells her son, the father's fear arises from love and pride. Perhaps, but it produces too much anger in Marcus for him to endure living with his parents any longer. He leaves them and, far from Newark, in the midwestern college, has to find his way amid the customs and constrictions of another American world. Indignation, Philip Roth's twenty-ninth book, tells the story of the young man's education in life's terrifying chances and bizarre obstructions. It is a story of inexperience, foolishness, intellectual resistance, sexual discovery, courage, and error. It is a story told with all the inventive energy and wit Roth has at his command, at once a startling departure from the haunted narratives of old age and experience in his recent books and a powerful addition to his investigations of the impact of American history on the life of the vulnerable individual.


Author Notes

Philip Milton Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 19, 1933. He attended Rutgers University for one year before transferring to Bucknell University where he completed a B.A. in English with highest honors in 1954. He received an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1955.

His first book, Goodbye, Columbus, received the National Book Award in 1960. His other books include Letting Go, When She Was Good, Portnoy's Complaint, My Life as a Man, The Ghostwriter, Zuckerman Unbound, I Married a Communist, The Plot Against America, The Facts, The Anatomy Lesson, Exit Ghost, Deception, Nemesis, Everyman, Indignation, and The Humbling. He won the National Book Critic Circle Awards in 1987 for his novel The Counterlife and in 1992 for his memoir Patrimony: A True Story. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1993 for Operation Shylock: A Confession and in 2001 for The Human Stain, the National Book Award in 1995 for Sabbath's Theater, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for American Pastoral. He stopped writing in 2010. He died from congestive heart failure on May 22, 2018 at the age of 85.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In Roth's provocative new novel (his twenty-ninth book) which, in a quieter, more personal fashion, is as provocative as his astonishing Plot against America (2004) the setting and the main character are plucked from traditional Roth country: a nice Jewish boy living in Newark in the early 1950s, the son of a kosher butcher. The Korean War rages halfway around the word, but Marcus Messner, conscious though he is of the war and his possible forced participation in it, has a more fundamental concern: staying away from his father, to whom he is extremely close but who has recently become neurotically overprotective. Marcus had been attending a local Newark college, but his father's new craziness over safety compelled him to transfer to bucolic Winesburg College in Ohio, in a conservative Midwest that is foreign country to Marcus. He continues to earn good grades, but the rest of Winesburg life has him befuddled. Not so much because he's Jewish but because he's a free thinker, he wonders, Why do I have to attend chapel? Why should he have to put up with inordinately noisy roommates? And how to fathom the strange but perversely alluring psychological dimensions of the unbalanced girl he's interested in? During this time, male college students walk a tightrope: flunk out of school or be expelled for any reason, and the draft will snap you up. Read this fast-paced, compassionate, humorous, historically conscious novel to learn what that means for Marcus.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2008 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Roth's 29th book tells the tale of young Marcus Messner, a boy forced to attend a pastoral, conservative college because of his father's apprehensions about life in 1951 New Jersey. Narrator Dick Hill delivers a sturdy performance that manages to bring Messner to life, but never really captures the listeners attention as he normally does. As talented as Hill is, there's something lacking in his characterization. He reads with a droning, slightly whiny voice that sometimes grates. Hill always seems on the verge of losing himself into the tale only to yank himself back from the edge at the last moment. He has a knack for bringing characters to life, but here he sounds tired. A Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Reviews, May 12). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In 1951, Marcus Messner flees his father's steadily debilitating dementia and the overwhelming constraints of family life in Newark, NJ, to the greener and more pastoral setting of Winesburg College in Ohio. After years of working in his father's butcher shop, where he learned to do everything well no matter how much he hated it, he steps into a Kafkaesque setting in which such a lesson is useless in the face of the demands of the college's authority figures. After encounters with arrogant and lazy roommates who won't allow him to study, confrontations with the college dean, and the heartbreak of a failed sexual affair, Marcus learns that he can best survive various challenges in his life--even the book's most surprising challenge--by acting indignantly in the face of them. A meditation on love, death, and madness, Roth's new novel combines the comic absurdity of his early novels like Portnoy's Complaint with the pathos of his later novels like Everyman and Exit Ghost. All libraries will want to add this to their collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/08.]--Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

"Under Morphine" About two and a half months after the well-trained divisions of North Korea, armed by the Soviets and Chinese Communists, crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950, and the agonies of the Korean War began, I entered Robert Treat, a small college in downtown Newark named for the city's seventeenth-century founder. I was the first member of our family to seek a higher education. None of my cousins had gone beyond high school, and neither my father nor his three brothers had finished elementary school. "I worked for money," my father told me, "since I was ten years old." He was a neighborhood butcher for whom I'd delivered orders on my bicycle all through high school, except during baseball season and on the afternoons when I had to attend interschool matches as a member of the debating team. Almost from the day that I left the store-where I'd been working sixty-hour weeks for him between the time of my high school graduation in January and the start of college in September-almost from the day that I began classes at Robert Treat, my father became frightened that I would die. Maybe his fear had something to do with the war, which the U.S. armed forces, under United Nations auspices, had immediately entered to bolster the efforts of the ill-trained and under-equipped South Korean army; maybe it had something to do with the heavy casualties our troops were sustaining against the Communist firepower and his fear that if the conflict dragged on as long as World War Two had, I would be drafted into the army to fight and die on the Korean battlefield as my cousins Abe and Dave had died during World War Two. Or maybe the fear had to do with his financial worries: the year before, the neighborhood's first supermarket had opened only a few blocks from our family's kosher butcher shop, and sales had begun steadily falling off, in part because of the supermarket's meat and poultry section's undercutting my father's prices and in part because of a general postwar decline in the number of families bothering to maintain kosher households and to buy kosher meat and chickens from a rabbinically certified shop whose owner was a member of the Federation of Kosher Butchers of New Jersey. Or maybe his fear for me began in fear for himself, for at the age of fifty, after enjoying a lifetime of robust good health, this sturdy little man began to develop the persistent racking cough that, troubling as it was to my mother, did not stop him from keeping a lit cigarette in the corner of his mouth all day long. Whatever the cause or mix of causes fueling the abrupt change in his previously benign paternal behavior, he manifested his fear by hounding me day and night about my whereabouts. Where were you? Why weren't you home? How do I know where you are when you go out? You are a boy with a magnificent future before you-how do I know you're not going to places where you can get yourself killed? Excerpted from Indignation by Philip Roth All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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