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Indignation Hardcover – September 16, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054705484X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547054841
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Enter once again into the echo chamber of Philip Roth's memory and imagination. In the second year of the Korean War, a butcher's son--a straight-A student wound tight with aspiration--flees Newark and his father's increasingly unhinged fears for his safety. Heading midwest, he finds a strange collegiate land of fraternities, football heroes, V-neck pullover sweaters and white buckskin shoes, panty raids, and mandatory chapel services, and, most startlingly, a young woman with desires of her own. Like another fiction grandmaster of his generation, Alice Munro, Roth seems able to spin infinite surprising tales from a few familiar building blocks, and in Indignation, his 25th novel, he has constructed a taut, haunting (and, as always, funny) story that ranks among his best. Reading at times like a buttoned-down Portnoy's Complaint (if it's possible to imagine such a thing), Indignation records a series of small explosions against '50s propriety and the dire consequences they lead to, capturing the misery of desire amid repression, along with the greater terror of being trapped in endless, relentless memory. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Roth's brilliant and disconcerting new novel plumbs the depths of the early Cold War–era male libido, burdened as it is with sexual myths and a consciousness overloaded with vivid images of impending death, either by the bomb or in Korea. At least this is the way things appear to narrator Marcus Messner, the 19-year-old son of a Newark kosher butcher. Perhaps because Marcus's dad saw his two brothers' only sons die in WWII, he becomes an overprotective paranoid when Marcus turns 18, prompting Marcus to flee to Winesburg College in Ohio. Though the distance helps, Marcus, too, is haunted by the idea that flunking out of college means going to Korea. His first date in Winesburg is with doctor's daughter Olivia Hutton, who would appear to embody the beautiful normality Marcus seeks, but, instead, she destroys Marcus's sense of normal by surprising him after dinner with her carnal prowess. Slightly unhinged by this stroke of fortune, he at first shuns her, then pesters her with letters and finally has a brief but nonpenetrative affair with her. Olivia, he discovers, is psychologically fragile and bears scars from a suicide attempt—a mark Marcus's mother zeroes in on when she meets the girl for the first and last time. Between promising his mother to drop her and longing for her, Marcus goes through a common enough existential crisis, exacerbated by run-ins with the school administration over trivial matters that quickly become more serious.... The terrible sadness of Marcus's life is rendered palpable by Roth's fierce grasp on the psychology of this butcher's boy, down to his bought-for-Winesburg wardrobe. It's a melancholy triumph and a cogent reflection on society in a time of war. (Sept.)
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More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

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Customer Reviews

I read this book in just two sittings.
Timothy J. Bazzett
Sometimes with an ending such as it is, you feel cheated as if you've wasted your time with the character, but this book is so well presented it simply shines.
Quiet Summer
What a wonderful writer Philip Roth is.
bronx book nerd

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 89 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on October 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Butchery and blood are recurring images in Philip Roth's scalding new novel which is probably his darkest comedy since Sabbath's Theater. The images are shocking yet appropriate since this little novel deals with a big subject: what someone once called "the meat-grinder of history." Many of Roth's familiar elements are here. The naive young Jewish hero meets up with an unstable gentile girl in the 1950's and farce ensues. But this is 1951 and the Korean War hovers over the story like a thundercloud. I wasn't very enthusiastic about Roth's last couple of novels which seemed rather flaccid to me. But this one has suspense, narrative drive and storytelling fury that recall his great "American" novels of 10 years ago, only in concentrated form. "Indignation" left me wrung out, like you hope a novel will do for you.

Marcus Messner announces on page 54 that he is dead (this is no great spoiler, believe me.) The dead narrator is a time-honored narrative strategy in film noir (see Sunset Boulevard (Special Collector's Edition) and the novels of Jim Thompson, especially Savage Night) and it's interesting to see how Roth uses it. Although there may be an alternative explanation for Marcus' state; check the chapter titles. As he tells his story we learn how he came to die.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Reading Wasp on October 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have always enjoyed Philip Roth's work and this was no exception. The plot was interesting and characters vivid. The tale of a Jewish boy, who is the first generation to attend the school is universal in many ways. The inability to fit in, the cultural issues and the non functional family are something most of us can relate to. The reason I gave this book three stars is because I felt that there was something missing. It was almost like in the last part of the book, author got bored of the book and just wanted to end it. The end was abrupt and almost incomplete. However, maybe that is the moral of the book - the end is abrupt and there is no real plan in life.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Emily R. Odza on December 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Do we each have a turning point or series of turning points in our lives that lead us to our fate? Or do we simply have things happen to us, in combination with our childhoods, our makeup, our genetics and the world events which catch us up, which in all their minutiae add up to "fate?" This is a small perfect book about which one should say nothing so that its progression and its surprises are not telegraphed in advance!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Derrick Hibbard on April 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently picked up this little book--my first exposure to Philip Roth--and was completely blown away. Someone described Roth as writing "perfect novels," and I think that this might just have been perfect. Short, concise, yet rich and descriptive. When you read this book, you are carried away into a different time, when things were simpler, yet so much more complex. You connect with the narrator because we've all been where he is--or at least, we've all experienced similar things--horrible roommates, rocky relationships with parents and authority figures, first love, first break-ups, and crazy adolescents.

The ending caught me by surprise--and the sheer irony of it all reminded me of life itself--no matter what happens, or what we do, life just marches on... Sometimes in the way we least expect it.

Great book, would certainly recommend.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David A. Moyer on October 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Unlike some Roth books, in which he seems to be outrageous for the sole purpose of provoking the reader, this book can stand with his best work. It sits aside The Human Stain as a personal favorite of mine. He seemlessly weaves the the story of the main character into the historical backdrop of the Korean War, working in the timeless themes of parent-child relationships, love, and the human desire to make sense of the chaos around them. It served as an inspiration for my book, Life and Life Only. Roth seems in a hurry to write as much as he can while he can, yet the writings of his recent years are carefully crafted and a joy to read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ann Ahnemann on June 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of the best of 2008 for sure. Philip Roth provides the reader with an example of how to write a novel with perfect economy so rarely seen in modern overblown fiction- no matter how entertaining. In this little book are all the essentials: history past and present in vivid color, characters one can see inside and out, psychology of choice, life's vicissitudes, humor, pathos, reflection. Nothing is unnecessary here- all moves with perfect and interesting cadence. One is rooting for these people, while fearing the glint of the knife and the red of blood which surely will follow. Perfect.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David N. Campbell on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For those of us from the Silent Generation (1926-1945), this brief book will force us to remember our youth and that it was not the best of times. Phillip Roth has become our historian, especially with The Human Stain and The Dying Animal. There we are repressed and angry with an America that continues to have that dark underside that is desperately afraid that someone, somewhere may be happy and is determined to prevent it. He takes us back to college in the 1950's with panty raids and Korea and mindless college administrators who wanted to make certain we were all safe for society. This is not best work but it's Roth and he is always a joy to read.
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