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Nemesis by Philip Roth

Nemesis (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Philip Roth

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908549,695 (3.81)54
Authors:Philip Roth
Info:London Cape 2010
Collections:Your library

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Nemesis by Philip Roth (2010)



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English (38)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
My only prior experience with Philip Roth's works was with Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, both of which I read many years ago and both of which I remember as rather crude. Nemesis was a pleasant surprise. Whether it is due to Roth's maturity as a writer, or my own maturity as a reader, I found Nemesis to be a gripping coming-of-age story. Set in Newark, NJ during the 1944 polio epidemic, it's the story of Bucky Cantor, a phys-ed teacher, summering as a playground instructor. He has found a career, a woman to love, and is on the brink of a wonderful life when tragedy strikes. I definitely recommend this book! ( )
  LoisB | Aug 1, 2014 |
"Nemesis" is a book in three parts. The first takes place in Newark, NJ during a polio outbreak in the summer of 1944, the second is in a sleep-away camp in the Poconos that same summer, and the third is 27 years later. The story is about Bucky Cantor, who is athletic and verile, and he begins the summer by facing the epidemic head-on with optimism and determination. The descriptions of the epidemic and its effects on a city and on one man's life are brilliant. Bucky ultimately questions his Jewish faith over the idea that God lets bad things happen to good people, and by the end that questioning has unravelled his life. It's an interesting riff on the Greek myth of Nemesis, but it felt disingenuine that Bucky has spent 27 years withering to the point where he's not even the narrator in his own story. I would have rather seen him grow or become destroyed, but the outcome of just existing felled this book for me. ( )
  sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
"Nemesis" was my first time reading anything by Philip Roth... I enjoyed the book though I'm not sure why it is on the list of 1,001 books to read before you die.

The story centers on Bucky Cantor, a playground director when a polio epidemic hits Newark, N.J. I found the story was told well, but somewhat predictable... I could see fairly early on where it was going. That said, I thought Roth did a masterful job at peeling back the layers of Cantor's character.

Overall, this was an interesting and quick read. ( )
  amerynth | Dec 3, 2013 |
with this book, i'm starting to understand roth's narrative sense. here, he unwraps the narrator a chapter at a time. ( )
  applemcg | May 26, 2013 |
Summer in the city

Bucky Cantor is a mensch—a good man. During the summer of 1944, when the bulk of this brief novel takes place, 24-year-old Bucky is working as the playground director of the Chancellor Avenue Playground in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. It’s the city’s Jewish neighborhood, and that summer it’s been hit brutally hard by a polio epidemic. Kids are scared and parents downright are terrified. Bucky’s own grief and fear are balanced by a sense of duty equal to that of any Gilbert & Sullivan protagonist. Conflict arises when his girlfriend begs him to leave the disease-stricken city and join her as a counselor at a bucolic summer camp in the Poconos. The situation in Newark is volatile. Says the girlfriend’s father, a doctor:

“The anti-Semites are saying that it’s because they’re Jews that polio spreads there. Because of all the Jews, that’s why Weequahic is the center of the paralysis and why the Jews should be isolated. Some of them sound as if they think the best way to get rid of the polio epidemic would be to burn down Weequahic with all the Jews in it. There is a lot of bad feeling because of the crazy things people are saying out of their fear. Out of their fear and their hatred. I was born in the city, and I’ve never known anything like this in my life. It’s as if everything everywhere is collapsing.”

Meanwhile, the stress of what was happening in Newark and elsewhere around the country was playing out against the backdrop of a country at war. It was a terrible, terrible time.

My mother contracted polio a few years after the events depicted in this novel. We’ve discussed this frightening period of her life many times over the years, but strangely, hearing her personal account couldn’t touch the reality of what Mr. Roth has depicted with such immediacy. Reading Nemesis made me feel like I’d taken a time machine back for a visit. It gave me fresh insight into my mother’s experience. And it also served as a reminder of just how forgotten this terrible disease is. In 1944, both scientists and the public were so appallingly ignorant about the cause and transmission of polio it was hard to believe. And yet… I don’t know anything about polio. Despite my mother’s history, I’m not sure I could have told you it was a virus. Is transmission airborne? I have no idea. Polio has never been a part of my lifetime, and after reading this novel, I pray that it never is. More than anything, Nemesis is completely evocative of the time and place in which it is set. As glad as I am to have had a window into the past, I’m even gladder to have moved on from that time. ( )
  suetu | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
It’s all a bit by the numbers, though Mr. Roth executes Bucky’s story with professionalism and lots of granular period detail.

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The first case of polio that summer came early in June, right after Memorial Day, in a poor Italian neighborhood crosstown from where we lived.
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Book description
Situé dans les environs de Newark , à l'époque où éclate une terrible épidémie de polio , Némésis décrit avec précision l'impact des circonstances sur nos vies .
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547318359, Hardcover)

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor’s dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground—and on the everyday realities he faces—Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.

Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children’s summer camp high in the Poconos—whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"—Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.

Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth’s late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:19 -0400)

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Roth's "Nemesis" is the story of a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

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