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The Human Stain by Philip Roth
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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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5,454821,227 (3.84)219
Recently added byTigerBeast79, private library, x_hoxha, mwaddell, mike4143, sacredheart25, sprotze, Lukerik, elucinschi
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» See also 219 mentions

English (68)  Spanish (6)  French (3)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
The best advice I can give if you want to read this book is to do so straight away and not to google it or read any reviews. Not even this one. There’s a massive reveal part way through and while I don’t intend to give the game away there’s always the chance I might unintentionally be passing information that will allow you to guess Coleman Silk’s secret. That said, I knew the secret going in as I’d seen the film and it didn’t ruin it for me as there’s so much more to the novel than a surprise.

The theme here is the idea of the impurity which might adhere to people as a result of impiety and the rituals people perform in an attempt to cleanse themselves and society. That may sound heavy. This is a heavy-weight novel, but doesn’t feel like one as you’re reading it. All beautifully handled as the scenarios of the story dance about this central theme and illuminate it from various angles.

With any other book, on that basis I’d call it a day and give it five stars, but what really impressed me were these set-piece passages, each unique, each with great energy that presses, presses, until the fabric of the fiction bends under the pressure and the fourth wall bows inward. The first of these, Farley’s PTSD daymare, quite shocked me with it’s power and then Roth somehow repeats the performance again and again, Fauna’s dance scene being a particular stand-out. The humanity of it.

It’s showing off really, but all is forgiven when a novel is this intense. ( )
  Lukerik | Jun 11, 2019 |
I liked it. ( )
  Hank_Kirton | Apr 25, 2019 |
Esta novela es increíble. Lo primero que leo de Roth no me deja nada decepcionado. Su técnica es perfecta, sus personajes son llevados siempre hasta sus últimas consecuencias. Crítico de su tiempo, de la academia, de su país, del vicio y de la virtud, Roth debe ser uno de los mejores novelistas norteamericanos de finales del siglo veinte. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
What started as an interesting read in American Pastoral degrades to the musings of a bitter old man. There is an important message in the book, that I think that requires a re-read in the future. ( )
  JSpilman | Apr 16, 2018 |
One of the more interesting and enjoyable 'old people finding meaning in life' books that I ever read, and I'm a fan of the genre. Rebirth through passion, reinventing oneself by force of will, ironing out a different intimacy in each relationship, lying is aspirational. Runs at a nice brisk clip for a Roth book, too.
  ahovde01 | Oct 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Oedipus:
What is the rite
or purification? How shall it be done?

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

--Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Dedication
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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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