Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

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)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,72366996 (3.85)179

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 179 mentions

English (57)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
FORMAT:☊ - audio, narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris (did a good job)

This was a book that was so much on so many levels that I know my review will be inadequate. So I will start with what it is; this is the story of a man who loses his job at a college where he has been the dean because he used a word that had been a racial slurr at one time and because it was taken out of context. It is set in 1998 during the Clinton administration and the Monica Lewinsky situation. It is set in rural New England and is in the first person narrative of 65 y/o Nathan Zuckerman who appears in a couple other Roth novels American Pastoral, and I Married a Communist and make up a loose trilogy with this book. The narrator is observing the protagonist Coleman Silk, the retired professor of classics. The professor retired after being accused of racism by two African American students. This novel was inspired by an event that happened to a friend of the authors, Melvin Tumin, who had become a subject of a "witch hunt" but was found innocent of using racial language. The author explores American morality and the effects. He examines the cut throat and petty atmosphere of American academia "political correctness". The trilogy covers the 20th century--The McCarthy years, the Vietnam War and Pressident Bill Clinton impreachement which the author feels are historical moments of post war American Life that has had impact. The novel shows how the public zeitgeist can shape and even destroy an individual life. This book represents many themes that resonated with me but I still did not appreciate the amount and kind of swearing and some subject matter (though relevant to the book), it stil is a book that I will give a high rating too and one that I am glad I read. The book was a national bestseller and won numerous awards. It was adapted a film in 2003.

OPENING LINE: 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.

And by the way Fergus Falls, Minnesota has several mentions in this book set in the Berkshires. ( )
  Kristelh | Sep 5, 2015 |
  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 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

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)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
44 avail.
6 wanted
7 pay8 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.85)
1 16
1.5 9
2 64
2.5 10
3 231
3.5 67
4 406
4.5 60
5 278


3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 99,784,643 books! | Top bar: Always visible