Every genre has their own icon. Philip Roth was one of the icons of modern fiction by Jewish authors or fiction about Jewish characters. He passed away yesterday at the age of 85.
My favorite Philip Roth novel is The Plot Against America.
In the novel, Roth re-wrote history. In 1940, FDR lost the presidential election to Charles Lindbergh. Soon after taking office, Lindbergh not only blamed the Jews for America’s ills, but also negotiated a sort of peace with Germany. The Jews in America, who thought they were safe from the racist, anti-Semitic world that their European brethren lived will soon discover that they will soon be no better off than the Jews of Europe.
We read and re-reading Philip Roth because, like all great writers, he has a way of speaking directly to his readers, regardless of their religious or cultural background.
As they say in our mutual religion, may his memory be a blessing. Not only to those who knew him on a personal level, but also to the millions who have read and loved his books over the years.
The scariest thing in life is not always the monster we think is hiding in the closet or under the bed. The scariest thing is what if’s in life. It’s the if’s in history that might have changed the world as we know it.
Phillip Roth is known as one of the most prolific and well known writers of the past two generations. His books are iconic; his characters have taken on a life of their own, well beyond the initial publishing. His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, is the scariest book that I have ever read.
The Plot Against America starts in 1940. Roth takes biographical elements from his family and childhood. He combines those elements with the plot of a revisionist historical thriller. Young Phillip Roth is living with his parents and older brother in Newark, New Jersey. Newark has a large Jewish population. They are not as traditional as their immigrant grandparents were, but they still retain the ancient Jewish traditions that their forebears took with them when they emigrated from Eastern Europe to America.
World War II has already started in Europe. The Americans are content to watch the war from afar; not wanting to be drawn into another bloody conflict overseas only decade after World War I. Charles Lindbergh is the hero of the age, having just flown around the world. The candidates for President of the United States for the 1940 election are Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Charles Lindbergh is voted in as President of the United States.
President Lindbergh negotiates a cordial understanding with the Nazis and Adolph Hitler. Soon after, the government embarks on a below the radar, folksy anti-semitic campaign against it’s Jewish citizens. The result of the election begins a series of political and cultural earthquakes, affecting both the small world of the characters and the country at large.
The action feels very real, Roth takes the reader on a journey from a pre-war life that is calm, sedate and predictable to a life during war where every day is unpredictable. I love this book. I’ve heard of Phillip Roth, The Plot Against America was the first Phillip Roth book that I’ve read. After decades of writing, Mr. Roth’s reputation is well deserved as a master storyteller. This book keeps the reader on their toes, taking them on a suspenseful and scary journey.
I recommend this book.