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The Human Stain by Philip Roth

The Human Stain (2000)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The American Trilogy (3), Zuckerman Bound (8)

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
  OberlinSWAP | Jul 20, 2015 |
The Human Stain by Phillip Roth; (4*)

With the story of Coleman Silk and the notations of the misadventures of Bill Clinton, Roth succeeds in showing us the irony of political correctness, relationships, and the impulsiveness of life. The characters in this novel are multidimensional and complex. Roth's ear for dialogue and insightful descriptions make them whole. His diction and accounts complete the world of Athens and East Orange perfectly by capturing nuances and details.
The book kept me engaged.
  rainpebble | Jun 27, 2015 |
I am surprised that it took me this long to get around to reading this. Amazing. Such a deep understanding of many extremely different personalities and viewpoints. Each and every character is perfectly exposed with no bias. Genius. ( )
  shesinplainview | Apr 11, 2015 |
Poter leggere R. è un privilegio. Seguirlo nel nascere di una sua storia (che è sempre meno fiction e sempre più realtà), poterlo accompagnare in quei periodi robusti e sicuri, scorrere le sue parole mai banali, immergersi - senza accorgersi del tempo che passa - in un calderone di emozioni rapprese, vivere per qualche tempo con un libro di R. che ti aspetta nel tempo libero, è un privilegio.Parafrasando Ammanniti a proposito di Lansdale, bisognerebbe imparare a leggere solo per conoscere i libri di Roth. Da questo libro è stato tratto un film che rievoca parte della storia , lasciando naturalmente perdere tutto quello che una visione non potrà mai raccontare. Non è sempre vero che una immagine vale più di mille parole. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
I saw the movie and now I think I should read the book.
  gmicksmith | Oct 18, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What is the rite
or purification? How shall it be done?

By banishing a man, or expiation
of blood by blood . . .

--Sophocles, Oedipus the King
For R.M.
First words
It was in the summer of 1998 that my neighbor Coleman Silk - who, before retiring two years earlier, had been a classics professor at nearby Athena College for some twenty-odd years as well as serving for sixteen more as the dean of faculty - confided in me that, at the age of seventy-one, he was having an affair with a thirty-four-year-old cleaning woman who worked down at the college.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375726349, Paperback)

Athena College was snoozing complacently in the Berkshires until Coleman Silk--formerly "Silky Silk," undefeated welterweight pro boxer--strode in and shook the place awake. This faculty dean sacked the deadwood, made lots of hot new hires, including Yale-spawned literary-theory wunderkind Delphine Roux, and pissed off so many people for so many decades that now, in 1998, they've all turned on him. Silk's character assassination is partly owing to what the novel's narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, calls "the Devil of the Little Place--the gossip, the jealousy, the acrimony, the boredom, the lies."

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Coleman Silk is a respected professor at a New England college who suddenly finds his life unraveling after a comment he makes about some African-American students is misinterpreted as a racial slur. As the scandal heats up, Nathan Zuckerman, a writer researching a biography of Silk, begins to dig deeply into Silk's life. Eventually, matters are made worse when Coleman's affair with a young married janitor named Faunia Farley is exposed. But amid the controversy, Silk must struggle to keep his greatest secret, a secret he's held for the majority of his life, from becoming made public.… (more)

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