ReadySteadyBlog

Mark Sarvas reviews Philip Roth's Indignation:


An uncharitable interpretation would suggest that Roth is either unaware he's repeating himself or doesn't mind (or care). He has, after all, given his normally recursive tendencies an unfettered hand in his last few books: From the conclusion of the Zuckerman saga in Exit Ghost to the conclusion of the saga of the body in Everyman to the mining, once again, of his childhood in The Plot Against America, Roth has scarcely stepped away from himself. But perhaps the counterfactual structure of The Plot Against America suggests a more charitable reading of Indignation as something of an anti-history itself. The self-righteous, unyielding Marcus Messner can stand in for any number of earlier Roth heroes, and perhaps Indignation -- the song will have a chilling relevance for Marcus -- is meant to be read as a consideration of what might have happened had Portnoy or Zuckerman or Sabbath (or Roth) not had their hour upon the stage. This seems in keeping with Indignation's stated theme, adumbrated in The Plot Against America: namely the great reverberations of seemingly insignificant choices. Roth, it seems, has discovered chaos theory, but, having done so, delivers a disappointingly heavy-handed treatment of his material.

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