The Human Stain eBook –

The Human Stain See, I was an enormous fan of the Tony Hopkins Nicky Kidman film already But incredibly, that adapatation was just the tip of an iceburg so rich, complex incredible that is Philip Roth s masterpiece The Human Stain The film fails oh so miserably to fulfill at least 40% of the emotional clout which is significant and HEAVVVY famously attributed to this, a gargantuan beauty of a book.It seems that this late in the year, the magic wand waved by Literature is constantly and repeatedly still dabbing this dreary moment of living history with its good work I ve read at least four sure MASTERPIECES this year 2010 not so bad after all.Roth meshes history with modern tragedy parallels that with the goings on of a disgraced college professor the torrid love affair is placed in the backdrop the national consciousness is the Theme, as is the sadness in people living or pretending to live in modern times I fell in LOVE with this book difficult, academic, and witty for its dimension and its crisp flavor All characters are worthy of at least a few tears for Roth has so faithfully captured how the country fucks people over and over, over and how the price of freedom means the loss of something perhaps as equally important.If the film is above average, then the novel, a modern Bovary esque tale with so much personality and imbedded tragedy in it to make it worthy of a faithful readership for the decades that are to come, so modern and CLASSIC it is is quite simply no joke FLAW LESS The Clinton Lewinski scandal all but forgotten and perhaps its important to notice, too, that that disgrace, though not quite so far long ago, has been already buried under so many others Shaming Censors of Academic Speech A Pox on the PC PoliceMy favorite Roth novel I will miss the lusty old tale hound I m very depressed how in this country you can be told That s offensive as though those two words constitute an argument Christopher HitchensColeman Silk, a professor of classics at a local esteemed college, has been accused of racism by two African American students in one of his classes, after he notices upon calling roll that these two enrolled students never attend his class, and mumbles Do they exist or are they spooks Roth brilliantly uses the most ambiguous of words due to its several legitimate meanings compared to the one meaning racially derogatory to African Americans Wikipedia s most comprehensive definition indicates the term s many meanings, a few of which fit the context of the professor s statement, only one of which is the racially offensive, pejorative use The primary other use which appears to fit the context unless some evidence of a racial animus could be shown is of an apparition who is present but cannot be seen This latter meaning is in fact its primary English meaning since its etymology revolves around various references to ghost or apparition cognate Dutch spook ghost , Middle Dutch spooc spook, ghost liken German Spuk ghost, apparition , Middle Low German spok spook , and Norwegian spjok ghost, specter Silk says he used the word spook to sarcastically imply the possibility that the students might be attending as ghosts or spirits That, since they did not attend class and he didn t know who they were, he could not even know their race.I won t get too sidetracked on political correctness run amok in this country, particularly in academia, and misused as a tool amounting to censorship, but I ll footnote excellent, reasoned quotes from a nonfiction book about the cultural revolution changing this country since the 1960s as well as two late iconoclastic hyper intellectuals David Foster Wallace and Christopher Hitchens The narrator is Roth s alter ego Nathan Zuckerman Roth based the novel on an incident involving his friend, a professor at Princeton University Silk resigns his post in anger and raises the stakes and ire of campus feminists when he starts dating an illiterate, but intelligent, female custodian who s about 30 years younger than he is she s 34 She has a former lover who has serious issues arising from his stint in Vietnam.The piercing irony is in Silk s disclosure that he is an African American who s been passing as Jewish and white since he served in the Navy He married a white woman and had 4 children with her His wife recently died and he never told her or the children of his their ancestry Silk decided to take the future into his own hands rather than to leave it to an unenlightened society to determine his fate Zuckerman frames novel and retells the back story in flashbacks as conveyed to him by Silk Against a present backdrop of the 1998 Oval Office Orgasm Scandal of former President Bill Clinton, Roth develops what I believe is his best novel, one raising trusty old questions of identity and self invention, i.e., questions of whether one can change the past Gatsby or whether the past is ever even past Faulkner in Requiem for a Nun Two passages on these issues that I considered especially poignant were There is truth and then again there is truth For all that the world is full of people who go around believing they ve got you or your neighbor figured out, there really is no bottom to what is not known The truth about us is endless As are the lies I couldn t imagine anything that could have made Coleman of a mystery to me than this unmasking Now that I knew everything, it was as though I knew nothing Footnote on Political CorrectnessFrom Roger Kimball, The Long March How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America As with most revolutions, the counterculture s call for total freedom quickly turned into a demand for total control The phenomenon of political correctness , with its speech codes and other efforts to enforce ideological conformity, was one predictable result of this transformation What began at the University of California at Berkeley with the Free Speech Movement called by some the Filthy Speech Movement soon degenerated into an effort to abridge freedom by dictating what could and could not be said about any number of politically sensitive issues From David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays There s a grosser irony about Politically Correct English This is that PCE purports to be the dialect of progressive reform but is in fact in its Orwellian substitution of the euphemisms of social equality for social equality itself of vast help to conservatives and the US status quo Were I, for instance, a political conservative who opposed using taxation as a means of redistributing national wealth, I would be delighted to watch PC progressives spend their time and energy arguing over whether a poor person should be described as low income or economically disadvantaged or pre prosperous rather than constructing effective public arguments for redistributive legislation or higher marginal tax rates In other words, PCE acts as a form of censorship, and censorship always serves the status quo. Hey Roth, I know you have a great vocabularyJust tell me a damn story Let me explain I just read a very positive review of this book stating that Roth has such an expansive vocabulary, and every word seems painstakingly chosen, etc That is exactly what I hate about this book A narrative is supposed to flow, not make you resolve to study the dictionary fastidiously For the record, I have a pretty good vocabulary and I thorouoghly enjoy creative uses of the English language But I despise the use of overly academic, deliberately highbrow language when something simple would tell the story better The problem is NOT that I didn t understand this book, it is that the plot just does not flow at all I really dislike this book It looks as though this is a pretty unpopular opinion, but oh well. Here s what I know if a book features some old dude fucking some younger lady, check the author s age 100% of the time, he s the same age as the old dude.The younger woman will be vulnerable She will be attracted to the older man s security and wisdom There is a power imbalance, and it s basically the same thing as when Tarzan saves Jane from the lion It s embarrassing, immature wish fulfillment And even when it s written very well, it s boring This book is occasionally written very well, but it also has the young lady dancing naked for like 20 pages while she babbles about free love Oh, I see you, Coleman I could give you away my whole life and still have you Just by dancing Good luck getting through that bullshit It suuuucks.And you ve heard this story before Old guys complain that no one wants to read old guy authors It s not because we re politically correct It s because old men can t shut up about their penises, and it s boring The entire canon, as it was agreed on at some point by a bunch of old guys and their boring penises, is full of stories like this Coleman Silk, in The Human Stain, is one of those old guys He s the worst kind of college professor the kind who tells you how to read a book Fossilized pedagogy, as a character we re not supposed to agree with calls it Fuck you, it s my fucking book, I ll decide how to read it If I decide to take a feminist perspective on Euripides, then that s what happens Euripides can take care of himself.Silk is also of African American descent he s been passing as white his entire life Ironically, he s disgraced by an unfortunately timed use of the word spook This is the one sentence plot of the book guy accused of racism is secretly black It sounds interesting, but the problem is that Philip Roth thinks it s a metaphor for himself.He thinks it s a metaphor because he keeps getting accused of being an asshole All his life, people have called Philip Roth all sorts of names Misogynist, even anti Semite Roth is Jewish He keeps getting accused of believing what his characters say It s not me, he complains The thought of the novelist lies not in the remarks of his characters or even in their introspection, he insists, but in the plight he has invented for his characters Well, quite The plight he has invented here is a young lady s vagina Of course Philip Roth isn t Coleman Silk He s his pimp. I read Roth s Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy s Complaint in college, and loved them They were funny, especially in depicting the lusts and lives of young men, with literary flair But I didn t read him again for no particular reason until relatively recently Maybe it was something to do with my feeling tired of reading the same Roth main character, book after book, an aggressive male consumed by lust But then I happened to read the non fiction Patrimony, about his relationship with his father, and The Plot Against America, a dark fantasy about a possible past where we choose a fascist dictator in the thirties instead of FDR, and I thought maybe I d take a closer look at his work again And now having completed his Nathan Zuckerman trilogy, beginning with the much acknowledged masterpiece, American Pastoral, which I loved, and I Married a Communist, which I also came to like very much, I see the greatness of this trilogy, which like the Plot Against America, has to do with its attention to the sweep of twentieth century American history, with some central social issues of each period examined in the context of often deeply flawed characters It s also about Roth s use of language, at once visceral and muscular and startlingly honest in places, and often than not lyrical at the same time And talk All the characters talk or think like they re talking in grand, sometimes manic, fashion Epic verbal sparring and reflection.The Human Stain took its time for me to warm up to, but grew on me, and then ended with me shouting hurrah as it concluded It s the story of three interlocking tragic stories New England Athena College Classics professor and Dean Coleman Silk, who is forced out of his job at age 69 for supposed racist comments about two students his 34 year old girlfriend Faunia Farley whom he takes up with after his wife dies of complications from a stroke, and her ex, a PTSD riddled Vietnam vet, each of them finally at least somewhat understandable if not completely sympathetic, but morally culpable and doomed by their own terrible mistakes It s primarily the story of Silk, and his secrets and lies, but especially of one central secret which led to terrible mistakes he made in the context of America s racial past and present The legacies of racism and war and shame are at the heart of this book, how you can never really get free of them You do some bad things and you pay and pay for them, no matter what good you may do.The inciting impulse for the novel, set in 1998, but only part of its motivation, finally is the Clinton Impeachment trial, and on one level the book is an examination of all that sexual sanctimony through the lens of secrets and lies and the rest of us speculating about all public scandals as most of us typically do Are they really doing it What positions do they use Who s using whom Should we impeach a guy for that We all watched what I and my friends thought then were ludicrous proceedings, the end of the sexual revolution being televised, with all these hypocrites pointing fingers at him so we wouldn t point at them It was the summer in America when the nausea returned, when the joking didn t stop, when the speculation and the theorizing and the hyperbole didn t stop Roth on the Clinton impeachment trial, which became of national interest, but also on Silk s affair with Faunia, which becomes a small town scandal that same summer.This book can make you uncomfortable When Zuckerman and Silk joke crudely about the Clinton Lewinsky affair, it s funny, but there are no filters here No filters, either, when the damaged and abusive Farley threatens to explode about the draft dodger slick Willie getting off free when so many Vets died in the jungle so he could get what he got from than just Monica Lewinsky These are all deeply flawed, screwed up people, but they are never uninteresting The two men, Silk and Fawley, are driven by rage, by hatred, for what has happened to them Silk is pushed out of his position on the faculty because of something he said that people mistakenly assume is racist, and during this period his wife has a stroke and dies, so he is enraged about all that Fawley is angry and bitter about his experiences in Nam, but The danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times than you bargained for Once you start, you can t stop RothThis book is not just about gossip about who s doing what to whom, sexually, though It s also about racial secrets Does that white guy look a little bit black Could he be passing for white If so, what are we going to do about that Because we need these classifications for some reason, it seems And what if you were technically black, but looked white would you choose to say you were black to be true to that legacy or would you say you were white so you could easily achieve the American Dream You read this novel in part about race through the lens of an Obama birther story, the light skinned Kamala Harris, the Native American controversy around Elizabeth Warren, and so on The continuing national obsession with race and color.When I was done I thought that Zuckerman was to Silk as Nick Carraway is to Gatsby, albeit a cruder, visceral Nick Gatsby combo Here Zuckerman speaks of what he imagines to be Silk s goal To become a new being To bifurcate The drama that underlies America s story, the high drama that is upping and leaving and the energy and cruelty that rapturous drive demands Sounds a little like Gatsby, right The stories we read of Silk and Faunia and Fawley are stories told by writer Zuckerman, so we meta fictionally reflect through the telling on the way any novelist s imagination can work its magic But Zuckerman makes it clear that neither the novelist nor any of his readers, when we are done with this story, will have any really deep insights into human nature beyond this There is truth and then again there is truth For all that the world is full of people who go around believing they ve got you or your neighbor figured out, there really is no bottom to what is not known The truth about us is endless As are the lies RothZuckerman and Roth as novelists are not preachers, they are not social scientists they only have their imaginations, and hunches they can describe these fascinating, screwed up people, and they can hypothesize, but they make it clear we re all unknowable at some deep level Even when he finds out all he can know to inform his telling of Silk s story, the novel he writes, The Human Stain, Zuckerman says Now that I know everything, it was though I knew nothing RothWe look at others, we look at the world, and what we are left with is mystery, or a set of them, but a sense, too, of being highly entertained, having achieved a level of intensity that equals any of the other great Roth novels I highly recommend this book You don t need to need to have read the first two to read this one, but the whole trilogy is great if you want to put it on your tbr list The author sums it up perfectly on page 81 You area a verbal master of extroadinary loquatiousness P Roth So Perspicatios So fluent A vocal master of the endless, ostentatious overelaborate sentence Yup This book is the Jackson Pollock of our literary time Just spatter everything all over the page and call it art Roth goes on and on by using every single adjective he ever learned in his SAT class, in a row, then completely counters every argument he just made, so he can use all the opposite words he knows ITs OBNOXIOUS I ve read reviews about how each word seems painstakingly chosen Its painful alright, for the reader I don t think the author made any choices TO choose the implies you would select one word or phrase to the exclusion of another He uses ALL OF THEM This guy is the master of the tripple negative You are not so unshrewed as not to know it p195 but not quite as good at it as he is at using ellipses, dashes and commas to create an entire page of run on sentence that is, none the less, gramatically correct, and here the real skill its also pointless He makes Melville seem to the point and full of rich coloqiolism and contemporary dialect he goes on for a full page to discuss a scene he has already earlier described about milking cows, he uses every verb and adjective that can even be remotely related to a cow, then proceeds to contradict himself as he does often just to put in words, negate the meaning of the word immidiately preceeding it then relate it to sex and subjugation the human and bovine, the highly differentiated and the all but undifferentiated, to live, not merely to endure, but to live, to go on taking, feeding, milking, acknowleging wholeharetedly, the enigma that it is, the pointless meaningfulness of living all was recorded as real by tens of thousands of minute impressions The sensory fullness, the copiousness, the abundant superabundant detail of life which is the rhapsody BULLSHIT Pointless meaninfullness Full, copious, abundant,and then we needed superabundant as if his point in unclear Well his point is unclear This is the rhapsody What rhapsody I dont know if he s trying to show off, or insult me, like I dont know what the first three mean, or maybe I have to read it three, oh, wait, no 4 times to get the point What is this a 9th grad vocab test You re kidding, right how about this crap Stunned by how little he d gotten over her and she d gotten over him, he walked away understanding, as outside his reading in classical Greek drama he d never had to understand before, how easily a life can be one thing rather than another and how accidentally a destiny is made on the other hand, how accidental fate may seem when things can never turn out other than they do That is, he walked away understanding nothing, knowing he could understand nothing, though with the illusion that he WOULD have metaphysically understood somthing of emormous importance about the stubborn determination of his to become his own man if only such things were understandable I m pretty sure in this case the author meant to convey the character s confusion but I m too confused to say for sure The author is so obnoxios, he regularly references characters from Euripides by name only do you know anyone familiar with the characters of Euripides ancient greek plays How about Aschenback and Tadzio Herodotus How about some general concepts Most people know ethos, pathos, logos, but how about The difference between diegesis and mimesis He seems to be trying to satorize his characters in the book, to make them seem obnoxious, overeducated and socially innept, secretly insecure which requires they blather on dropping names and fancy words It works, except that its not just one or two characters He does it constantly himself in the authors own narration as if his point wasnt already so obfuscated you have to go back through 2 pages, six dashes, a dozen commas, a hanful of ellipses to find where the sentence begins and remember what he was talking about. Una maravillosa historia donde coexisten el coraje y la decadencia, la mentira y el pundonor, la necesidad y el fracaso Jos Mar a Guelbenzu, BabeliaEn el verano de 1998, el doble azote del puritanismo y la correcci n pol tica recorre Estados Unidos a causa del esc ndalo Lewinski Coleman Silk, un viejo catedr tico de una peque a universidad de Nueva Inglaterra, se ve obligado a jubilarse cuando sus colegas lo acusan de racista Lo asombroso del dictamen es que la verdad sobre Silk podr a acallar hasta al m s virulento de sus detractores Su secreto, escondido durante cincuenta a os a esposa, familiares y amigos, servir al escritor Nathan Zuckerman para reconstruir la biograf a desconocida de Silk y entender c mo puede llegar a desenmara arse una ficci n de vida tan ingeniosamente armada. A masterfully architected tale about race, shame, violence, and remembrance, The Human Stain is definitely one of Roth s masterpieces From its first pages, the reader is drawn into the mystery of Coleman Silky Silk n Silkzweig and his tragic downfall The characters here are vibrant and real, the descriptions terrifying at times but always captivating, I found it hard putting this book down as I was relentlessly driven to want to know what happened the mark of truly great writing If you have never read Roth, you can safely start with this one or American Pastoral and you will definitely want.I just watched the movie from 2003 starring Anthony Hopkins as Coleman, Nicole Kidman as Faunia, Gary Sinise as Zuckerman and Ed Harris as Les It is a wonderful and accurate rendition of the book for the silver screen It can be watched before or after reading the book, but I would suggest reading the book first. Philip Roth dealing with serious topics at this noveldiscrimination, shame, identity, and judging othersthe human between the truth, rumors and illusionshow hard to truly know someoneand how hard to live in a circle of lying and anger lying to be accepted in a discriminatory community, and being angry for doing so The danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times than you bargained for Once you start, you can t stop Philip Roth, The Human StainReading Roth is almost a spooky, sexual experience I say that knowing this will sound absurd, trite and probably hyperbolic But with Roth, his words are imbued with an almost carnal power, a spectral courage, energy and life IT is like watching an absurdly talented musician do things with an instrument with sound that bends the edge of possible Reading Roth, I can understand how the audience in Paganini s time wanted to burn the man for witchcraft, feared the man for his deal with the Devil I m not sure who Roth sold his soul to, but Roth s run of Novels Operation Shylock 1993 Sabbath s Theater 1995 American Pastoral 1997 I Married a Communist 1998 The Human Stain 2000 can only be thought of as the greatest run of novels produced by ANY writer at anytime Maybe Shakespeare had a better run Maybe Proust Maybe For me, these five novels, ending with The Human Stain are the apex of 20th Century writing Spooky.

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