‘Indignation,’ by Philip Roth: A belated review

image Although verbose in places, Indignation is witty and engrossing with wonderful caricatures.

I spent time in Northern Ohio eons ago, not that far from some of Sherwood Anderson‘s old haunts, and I enjoyed Philip Roth‘s depictions of the mythical Winesburg College. Roth lives up to his reputation with hilarious attacks on both Jewish moralists and the Waspy midwestern variety—blended in with the protagonist’s libido-and-ego-driven fondness for defying them.

What’s more, I enjoyed Roth’s clever use of the bleeding motif. Those who’ve read Indignation will know exactly what I mean; Marcus Messner’s story is not for readers who shy from the sight of blood. Fittingly, Marcus’s father is a butcher intent on controlling the boy’s life; quite unintentionally and indirectly, through the events depicted in the novel, he kills his own son.

And one other little detail: Marcus is dead or near-dead at the start of the story. No, my revealing this is not a spoiler; other reviewers have, too. You’ll still want to know the history that lead to Marcus’s current condition, and like me, you may be so caught up in Indignation‘s plot and characterizations that you really won’t care that he is already a corpse. I used a somewhat similar technique when I wrote The Solomon Scandals, my Washington newspaper novel—starting Chapter One with the suicide of one of the journalists, at the Watergate. The “Why?” counts as much as, “What’ll happen?”

For reasons that I won’t discuss here, lest I do spoil things, Indignation should especially appeal to those who came of age during the Vietnam era–even though Korea is the war of the moment.

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David Rothman

1 thought on “‘Indignation,’ by Philip Roth: A belated review

  1. Nice review. Roth’s character Marcus has some the same character of Shakespeare’s Malvolio, who is mentioned more than once in “Indignation.” both of them are stuck up and cant relate to their peers. Roth and Shakespeare in the same sentence? Yes is said it. if anyone is interested i wrote a paper about it. you can find it here (http://norcalbookstravelandthought.blogspot.com/). come and take a look at where i think Roth gets his inspiration.

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