Mar 4, 2009

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America

Again, what is it with publishers putting big swastikas on covers? Hardbound books are already a pain to tote around, and that doesn't make it any easier to quietly read while I'm eating dinner out or something. Oh, well. Anyone who would judge me by the symbols on a book jacket is a fool anyway.

In a weird way, this book reminded me of Middlesex. An interesting story about what it is to be American but still be an outsider due to religion or background, wrapped in a less well fleshed out gimmick. The nazification of America just seemed tacked on, somehow, around the day to day life and trials of a Jewish family in the middle of the last century. I'd rather have more about the kid downstairs and how his life intersects with the narrator's and his brother's. Or about his mother and father, living in their Jewish neighborhood and in the larger world of the city. Or about Alvin slipping into position in the Jewish mafia.

Two major questions sort of popped out at me. For one, has there ever been a time in the USA that a political leader or party would be successful at drumming up the level of overnight, violent, murderous antisemitism Roth portrays? And for another, what about other minorities? Would a leader intent on following Hitler's example not have also turned on the black folks? Asians? (I mean, hell, we put Japanese folks into camps during WW II and we were the "good"" guys - what would we have done as nazis?) Basically, I either wanted this book to be larger in scale or be much smaller.

And then, at the very end, here comes the deus ex machina. Everything's wrapped up in a chapter, no problems, life back to usual, and ain't it grand? Good thing the whole affair was just a German plot, not actual, homegrown evil.

final thought: If you're really into conspiracy theories or alternate histories, sure, give it a read. I'll even loan you my copy. Otherwise, well, there was a good story in there somewhere.

6 comments:

JRSM said...

I have to admit that I really enjoyed this. My only complaint was as you have said--the way everything seamlessly flips back to being "our" history at the end seemed a bit too neat and unlikely.

downtown guy said...

Yeah, the ending blew it for me. It might as well have "all been a dream".

white rabbit said...

I think I may have said this to you before but swastikas on covers sell books - or such is the conventional wisdom of the publishing industry. Swastikas, cats or Princess Di, apparently. It would be a neat trick - although necessarily contrived - to get all three on one cover...

downtown guy said...

I think we talked about this last year sometime. But yeah, I can see that. In the US, it's less Princess Di and more, I dunno, something else. Elvis!

white rabbit said...

PRINCESS DI WAS CHILD BRIDE OF ELVIS!

Now that would sell a shitpile...

I'm working on this already.

Would also explain why Big Ears divorced her.

downtown guy said...

I'm pretty sure the whole reason Nic Cage married Lisa Marie Presley was because she was the ultimate Elvis collectors' item.