Customer Reviews

20
3.6 out of 5 stars
The Scientists: A Family Romance
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$14.33 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is an extremely powerful, haunting first work. It steers clear of the many temptations and false consolations of the memoir: to make linear and precise what in memory is always twisted and vague; to take one's own reconstructed account for the truth; and to slip into that false religion which holds that to articulate one's own life, say "one's own truth," somehow redeems that life. Though written by a literary critic with an extremely literary sensibility, The Scientists is highly scientific in method: Every conclusion is tentative and subject to revision, and it never allows a hypothesis to pass without challenging it with inconvenient facts. We close the book with no single working theory that accounts for why Marco Roth is who he is, why his father was who he was, and why his mother stood by. Instead, we come to share Roth's many struggles, over many years, to come to answer these questions, to puzzle out, in the shadow of his father's ghost, his own failings and fortunes. For a man as sensitive and introspective as Roth, these struggles to read one's own life again and again *are* life.

Yes, Roth grew up in a rarefied corner of New York City Jewish society, affluent and well educated. More than that, he was a particularly effete flower of that world -- raised speaking French, playing violin and reading Shakespeare before he read comic books -- and, as he tells us, he often suffered socially as a result. But there is nothing precious or pretentious about his writing here, or about the person who comes through. He is tough-minded and forthright -- which is the very best you can ask of a memoirist.

This is a must-read. You won't forget it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Marco Roth has written a memoir of his life as a son of parents living their own lives in a sort of denial of the truth. The "truth" was his father's death from AIDS in the mid-1990's and the lies and half-truths handed down through the generations of Eugene Roth's family.

Eugene Roth was the brother of writer Anne Roth Roiphe and the uncle of writer Katie Roiphe. Their parents raised their children in a household of denial. Their father was a philanderer with a second family, financed by the wealth of their mother. Anne Roiphe writes about her life in the book, "1185 Park Avenue". She also hints at her brother, Eugene's, sexuality in the memoir, published soon after Eugene Roth's death. Marco, the son who watched his father die in their apartment and had been forbidden to tell others of his father's illness, was left with more half-truths. His father had told Marco that he had contracted AIDS due to an inadvertent slip in his medical practice. Viki Roth, Marco's mother kept up this explanation after Eugene's death. It took Anne Roiphe's memoir to begin Marco's questioning of his parents' lives.

What is the purpose of writing a memoir. Telling the truth? Getting back at those who have caused the author pain? Righting a wrong (perceived or real)? I think people write memoirs for almost as many reasons are there are memoirs. Marco Roth's memoir examines the secrecy that transcended the generations of his family. He writes how the family dynamics affected his life, way past his father's death. He uses his memoir as a way to figure out his life. I suppose that's a good reason to write a memoir. Roth's memoir is worth reading, particularly if the reader knows about the Roth/Roiphe connection.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I bought this book after reading the positive review it received in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. My opinion differs from that reviewer: I found "The Scientists" to be one of the most disappointing books I've read this year.

Overall, I found the book tedious and without any narrative arc. In fact, I remember somewhere in the book that two characters argue about the role of narrative in life and literature. One person says that life isn't a story and that "things happen" for no reason and that these events aren't all interconnected. Well, I think Marco Roth proved that point: it seems they don't have to be connected in literature either. Instead, he offers up disjointed tales and trips. More than anything, the latter stages of the book felt like some series of extended book reports (Marco starts reading his father's books to understand him). It became a book about books and not so much a book about life, and it definitely wasn't much of a memoir.

That said, for all my negative critiques, I want to note that Marco Roth can write a beautiful sentence and construct some beautiful paragraphs. My complaint is that they often don't go anywhere.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read the very favorable review in the Economist, and started reading the memoir on my iPad minutes later. I was not disappointed. This in every sense of the word a great read. The first chapter is one of the strongest I've ever read. I read the book in four hours, could not stop. A wonderful four hours it was.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on February 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Marco Roth, with his elegiac prose and thoughtful memory, brings readers into a world both designed and shaped by a father he can only know through literature. And when the truth about his father's carefully constructed life finally reaches him, Roth must decide how he will let history affect him. This is a beautiful book written in a style that helps readers understand the deep, inner connections between family members that can be as strong or as tenuous on the outside as we chose them to be.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Marco Roth grew up in a well-to-do Jewish family on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but, like all unhappy families, his was unhappy in its own way: his father, a doctor, had contracted HIV, ostensibly from a careless needle prick, and by Marco’s high school years, had developed full-blown AIDS. And even though the subtitle—A Family Romance—suggests that this novel revolves around a family drama, it’s really more of a bildungsroman. Though the relationship between father, son, and illness plays a prominent role, the book examines the more subtle ways Roth’s father has influenced his life.

In particular, Roth’s father shapes his intellectual self in a way that goes beyond normal precociousness. In high school, instead the standard fare of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby, his father presses Ivan Goncharov and Thomas Mann into Roth’s hands. And as his father declines, conversations about the illness become commonplace: “T-cell counts, acne—anything was fair game as soon as I could get my tongue around a multi-syllable piece of mixed Greco-Latin medical jargon.”

Roth’s father dies early in the narrative, leaving a hole—spiritual, emotional—at which point The Scientists departs from being strictly about a father-son relationship. Instead the narrative becomes more episodic as Roth goes on to college, travels the globe, falls in love, and then goes to grad school. As a fellow grad student explains: “We can divide people into two kinds, those who feel that their lives are structured like a narrative… and those who feel as if life is a series of disconnected moments, transient and shifting desires.” Roth firmly plants himself in the latter camp.

But the one constant, overriding relationship to which Roth continually returns is that between him and literature. Even after he learns that the story of how his father contracted HIV might not be the entire truth, Roth tries to find answers not by delving into the mysteries of his own past, but by reconsidering the novels that his father had him read. It’s curious that Roth, despite his penchant self-reflection, doesn’t interrogates the silence and shame surrounding his father’s HIV status—particularly the stigma of AIDS as a “gay disease”—more fully, but Roth seems much more interested in matters of the mind than matters of the body.

Indeed, Roth’s prose evokes a calm, contemplative feel, with occasional flights of poetic fancy. But, as smooth as it is, it also displays a curious sang-froid. Even in extremely emotional circumstances, like at the father’s funeral, Roth’s retrospective narrator maintains a discrete distance. Even when he acts out, like one instance when he smashes the family dishes, the narration never accesses emotional intensity. And while this may suggest Roth’s general worldview—that he emphasizes the intellectual over the emotional—it may estrange readers who crave a more immediate connection to narrator.

At times, as well, it feels as if Roth tries too hard with the erudition, cramming the text with allusions, both literary and theoretical, a chain of signifiers that would have made Derrida chuckle. This isn’t surprising, considering that Roth is one of the founders of n+1, the much-heralded magazine, but the moments when Roth reaches for that connection—when he mentions his daughter, for example, and his failing relationship with her mother—don’t bridge the intellectual-emotional divide as much as emphasize the gap.

The Scientists is at its strongest as Roth tries to unravel the mystery of his father. That relationship, fraught as it is, brings forth Roth’s humanist side, as he tries not only to understand his father, but also to redeem him. Despite its shortcomings, The Scientists evinces a compelling portrait of the intellectual as a young man.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I bought this because of the positive review it got in The Economist, but having read the book I think the magazine paid it far more praise than it deserved.
While there were passages that were well done, on the whole I found the book amateurishly written and executed, and the tone whiny and self-indulgent. I believe this book made it to publication only because of the author's family connection to the writers Anne Roiphe and Katie Roiphe (his aunt and cousin, respectively). The editors responsible for this book should be sacked. There are so many more deserving writers out there with more interesting material.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Heard interview on NPR with author and promptly purchased several weeks in advance of release- (job well done NPR) but really enjoyed interview far more than book. My Heart aches for HIV victims and loved ones in the 80s and 90s, and this story offers a painful glimpse into one such story- but overall the book did not meet my expectations.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This memoir is also a "coming of age" story for Mr. Roth clearly has grown thru the process of writing this book.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book was beautiful. I understand all of the frustrated reviewers. I found this book a bit tedious in the beginning, and it was never easy to read. I felt it was well worth my time and effort to finish. The insights in this memoir are unsettling and comforting at the same time.

The paperback version is also gorgeous, and feels nice in your hand.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays
When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays by Marilynne Robinson (Paperback - January 29, 2013)
$12.62

Narcopolis: A Novel
Narcopolis: A Novel by Jeet Thayil (Paperback - September 26, 2012)
$13.87

A Million Heavens
A Million Heavens by John Brandon (Paperback - July 16, 2013)
$12.21
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.