Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The wrath of Roth

Can anyone write an outraged, outrageous and yet lucid tirade better than Philip Roth ?

This excerpt from the novel The Human Stain is a mild, for Roth that is, declamation of the summer of 1998. There are two places in it where you can stop for breath.

'It was the summer in America when the nausea returned, when the joking didn't stop, when the speculation and the theorizing and the hyperbole didn't stop, when the moral obligation to explain to one's children about adult life was abrogated in favor of maintaining in them every illusion of adult life, when the smallness of people was simply crushing, when some kind of demon had been unleashed in the nation, and on both sides, people wondered "Why are we so crazy?," when men and women alike, upon wakening up in the morning, discovered that during the night, in a state of sleep that transported them beyond envy or loathing, they had dreamed of Bill Clinton. I myself dreamed of a mammoth banner, draped dadaistically like a Christo wrapping from one end of the White House to the other and bearing the legend A HUMAN BEING LIVES HERE. It was the summer when - for the billionth time - the jumble, the mayhem, the mess proved itself more subtle than this one's theology and that one's morality. It was the summer when a president's penis was on everyone's mind, and life, in all its shameless impurity, once again confounded America.'

(From page three of The Human Stain by Philip Roth, published in London by Vintage in 2000).
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