Wednesday 2 December 2020

Favourite Books #29

Watching recently The Plot Against America, David Simon’s and Ed Burns’ excellent TV series adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2004 novel of American alt-history, reminded me of the rich vein of form that Roth hit at the turn of the century, including the loose trilogy American Pastoral (1997), I Married a Communist (1998) and The Human Stain (2000). Reading these books, I get the same feeling I get as when I listen to an album like John Cale’s and Lou Reed’s Songs For Drella: this guy knows how to write a novel, just as these musician/songwriters know how to make a record. They’ve been doing it all their lives. They know how these things work. No matter how complicated the work may get, there is an internal structure and simplicity to them that carries them through.

The Human Stain is another novel I used to teach. We always came back to the same question: is there something noble in Coleman Silk’s defiance, or is he just an arrogant old white (heh!) male, past his sell-by date? Maybe both…

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