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But shocking, intensely dramatized events precipitate Silk's crisis. He remarks of two students who never showed up for class, "Do they exist or are they spooks?" They turn out to be black, and lodge a bogus charge of racism exploited by his enemies. Then, at 71, Viagra catapults Silk into "the perpetual state of emergency that is sexual intoxication," and he ignites an affair with an illiterate janitor, Faunia Farley, 34. She's got a sharp sensibility, "the laugh of a barmaid who keeps a baseball bat at her feet in case of trouble," and a melancholy voluptuousness. "I'm back in the tornado," Silk exults. His campus persecutors burn him for it--and his main betrayer is Delphine Roux.
In a short space, it's tough to convey the gale-force quality of Silk's rants, or the odd effect of Zuckerman's narration, alternately retrospective and torrentially in the moment. The flashbacks to Silk's youth in New Jersey are just as important as his turbulent forced retirement, because it turns out that for his entire adult life, Silk has been covering up the fact that he is a black man. (If this seems implausible, consider that the famous New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard did the same thing.) Young Silk rejects both the racism that bars him from Woolworth's counter and the Negro solidarity of Howard University. "Neither the they of Woolworth's nor the we of Howard" is for Coleman Silk. "Instead the raw I with all its agility. Self-discovery--that was the punch to the labonz.... Self-knowledge but concealed. What is as powerful as that?"
Silk's contradictions power a great Philip Roth novel, but he's not the only character who packs a punch. Faunia, brutally abused by her Vietnam vet husband (a sketchy guy who seems to have wandered in from a lesser Russell Banks novel), scarred by the death of her kids, is one of Roth's best female characters ever. The self-serving Delphine Roux is intriguingly (and convincingly) nutty, and any number of minor characters pop in, mouth off, kick ass, and vanish, leaving a vivid sense of human passion and perversity behind. You might call it a stain. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I enjoyed this book. A bit wordy but a nice read. I definitely recommend as a leisure or summer bookPublished 18 days ago by ChitoT
How far can you go to protect yourself from social discrimination ? You can really sacrifice your life, it seems. You have to read "The Human Stain" to know more. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Susmita Pal
The best of Philip Roth. Hopefully the next Nobel Prize. He certainly deserves it.Published 1 month ago by Laura Cannon Perez
Smart, interesting, enthralling book. I loved it! I finished this book more than two years ago and I'm still thinking about it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Holly Kammier
I hadn't read any of the Nathan Zuckerman books before, but this one was recommended by a friend. I love Roth's mature use of language, even his long sentences. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Deborah Fronko
enjoyed his style of writing, which took concentration to follow through on subject.
Very "course " in spots, but felt it didn't dissuade me from understanding his... Read more
Really showing the deepest American life, the qrong stereotypes and the roles we are given in life by others. Loved it!Published 4 months ago by Eugenio
I read The Human Stain for an academic look at mobbing, a form of legitimized bullying hoisted on one perceived "bully" by a mob of seriously sick and destructive bullies... Read morePublished 4 months ago by dreaming-of-ireland