67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
An explosive broadside against the "ecstasy of sanctimony",
This review is from: The Human Stain (Hardcover)
More than an attack on the all-too-familiar topic of political correctness, Roth's new novel manages to encompass the entire culture of self-righteousness and MORAL correctness (which always assumes a more insidious form than the political). While some of the character developments are often less than compelling, the central story of Coleman Silk always remains strong and utterly fascinating. A key point, and often overlooked in reviews, is Roth's revelation (still unknown to many at this late date) of the ambiguity and arbitrary nature of racial classification. If Silk is to be considered black despite being as light as any white man, what does that do to our sense of "innate" and "immutable" racial features? As with morality, holding rigid ideological beliefs about race does little but lead to tragic misunderstandings and a failure to perceive complexity. Despite some detours, Roth is an exceptional writer, always insightful and willing to tackle contemporary controversies without fear. Some might be distracted by the allusions to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, but it does serve its purpose: intelligent, important men are often brought down by their sexual impulses, but such acts should never outweigh other aspects of character and achievement. That we need to be reminded of this time after time is quite sad, but Roth would rather we not forget it. Overall, neither "liberal" nor "conservative" in the conventional sense, but an indictment of a hypocritical society bent on using obfuscation and euphemism to create an environment where, to paraphrase Roth, "what is being said is not what is really going on."