Latest Philip Roth novel: Aviation and Jews

Just finished Philip Roth’s latest novel, The Plot Against America, a worthy addition to any Jewish pilot’s bookshelf.  Roth concentrates on his usual terrain of Newark, NJ Jewish family life.  This time the background is an America in which Charles Lindbergh has beaten FDR in the 1940 presidential election.  Lindbergh proceeds to negotiate deals with Japan and Germany rather than enter World War II and the federal government initiates some programs designed to disperse Jews from their traditional neighborhoods in places such as Newark out into the American heartland, e.g., rural Kentucky.

A lame ending and not as good as American Pastoral, for which Roth won the Pulitzer, but a lot better than Roth’s early novels and worth a try even if you were at some point forced to read Portnoy’s Complaint.

3 thoughts on “Latest Philip Roth novel: Aviation and Jews

  1. What don’t you like about Portnoy’s Complaint? I’m reading it these days and am enjoying it immensely. I haven’t read any other Roth, though, so I can’t compare. I’m curious to hear your opinion, though, because I’ve followed a couple of old reading recommendations of yours (e.g. Russo’s Straight Man) with great reward.


  2. In Portnoy’s Complaint and some of the earlier novels, Roth writes a lot about sex. This can be kind of funny and entertaining, I guess, but ultimately it isn’t necessary. Why bother reading about sex when in the same amount of time you can simply find a willing partner and conduct your own experiments? By contrast it isn’t possible to travel back in time and be a member of a Jewish family in New Jersey.

    Obviously the early Roth novels are better than 95% of what you might find in an average bookstore but they’re nowhere near as good as his work from the last 10 years.

  3. Actually, a few of Roth’s novels from the past 10 years are still about sex. The Dying Animal and The Human Stain come to mind. I would argue that Roth’s willingness to deal with sex as the powerful, messy, and at times dangerous driving force behind all human endeavors is what makes his novels so honest and approachable.

    After all, if it weren’t for sex, most men probably wouldn’t bother to write great novels or weblogs because there would be no need to advertise one’s intellectual prowess and daring adventures.

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