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The title, and Roth's prestige, had me thinking this was going to be an extremely heavy-handed novel and was actually relieved when I found the plot and the characters deep enough to swim in but not be drowned by. I thought about them long after I finished the book and I found it all to be paced very nicely. I had no trouble getting into the story at its start and then when I realized it was about something entirely different than I had first supposed I was hooked. I know this review may be a little abstract but I don't want to mislead or give anything away. This book is a window into a time and place--a life much like any other where ordinary things happen and the main characters and the society we share with them are what are fascinating--not some epic drama about a Big Event.
I did not find the academic parts of this book pretentious or inaccessible because it seemed Roth was pointing an almost self-deprecating finger at institutionalized education. He did this both through the narrator's character--which was one of literary accomplishment and social seclusion--and also through his unfavorable depiction of (some) university politics.
Anyway, that's not what makes this story wonderful nor at all what it is about. It brings questions of identity gently to the surface through dark water and then suddenly yanks them free for all to see and poke at and inquire upon--all while maintaining this conspiratorial relationship between the narrator and the reader, as if we are the only ones in on the secret and must ponder our own choices and identities alone.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Figuratively, Phillip Roth skins an onion in his book, The Human Stain. He exposes the insidious nature of discrimination in a story about a college professor’s life.
In a Buddhist’ way, Roth’s story stings the eyes of wisdom and the material world. The Human Stain offers layers of truth about human nature; Roth gives examples like President Clinton’s contretemps with Monica Lewinsky; stories of a “free” but tainted press; the many forms of discrimination, and incidents of female sexual exploitation. Each peel of the onion reveals a layer of stinging truth about human beings in a material world.
By the end of The Human Stain, one is reminded of the biblical phrase, “he who is without sin can cast the first stone”. Roth’s story infers every lie (and we are all liars) leaves a stain; every human experience leaves an imprint, some of which are stains; others, the building blocks of life.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful