Nemesis

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Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, Oct 12, 2010 - Newark (N.J.) - 304 pages
41 Reviews
A terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of a New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, even death. This is the startling theme of NEMESIS, 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 community. Bucky Cantor, a vigorous, dutiful, 23-year-old playground director, javelin thrower, and weightlifter, is devoted to his charges and disappointed 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. And through this story runs the dark question that haunts Roth's most recent novels: what choices fatally shape a life? How powerless is each of us up against the force of circumstances?

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All in all – great book, shame about the ending. - Goodreads
The "arrow" imagery insinuates potency, virility. - Goodreads
But the plot did not hold up for me. - Goodreads

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - sbloom42 - LibraryThing

"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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - amerynth - LibraryThing

"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 ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Goodbye, Columbus' is a first book but it is not the book of a beginner. Unlike those of us who come howling into the world, blind and bare, Mr. Roth appears with nails, hair, and teeth, speaking coherently. At 26 he is skillful, witty, and energetic and performs like a virtuoso"---so wrote Saul Bellow when Philip Roth made a loud entry onto the literary scene with Goodbye, Columbus (1960), a novella and short stories that won the 1960 National Book Award. Roth, born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, attended the public schools of that city and went on to Bucknell University before receiving his M.A. from the University of Chicago and publishing stories about contemporary Jewish life in such prestigious literary magazines as, Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Commentary. Of Letting Go (1962), a novel about young university teachers in the 1950s, the Atlantic said that "the sharply observant qualities of his first book have been expanded and enriched; he has become more probing, tentative, complex"; and "When She Was Good," his story of a gentile girl of the Midwest who in striving for moral perfection destroys her family and ultimately herself, was described by Raymond Rosenthal in the New Leader: "With a simplicity and modesty that are in the end lethal, Roth has written the most violently satiric book about American life since Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One."' The bestselling Portnoy's Complaint (1969) caused a greater stir than any other novel of its time. Told in the form of a confession by Alexander Portnoy to his psychiatrist Dr. Spielvogel, this outrageous novel centers around the character of Alexander's archetypal Jewish mother. Virtually the apotheosis of the American Jewish novel, Portnoy's Complaint seems almost to have killed off the form it represents, and even Roth himself has been hard put to match or surpass this blackest of comedies. Our Gang (1971) is a clever political satire directed at President Nixon and his pre-Watergate associates, but those prominent targets of Roth's venomous scorn seem pale and feeble when compared with the formidable mother in Portnoy's Complaint. The Breast (1972) finds Roth rather pathetically groping for a subject equally spectacular. oth has continued to produce novels at the rate of about one every two years, but none has come close to matching the impact of Portnoy's Complaint . In fact, Roth has linked together several of his recent works by means of a central character named Nathan Zuckerman, who seems to be Philip Roth looking back on his literary career and wondering where he goes from there. Zuckerman is introduced in My Life as a Man (1974) and takes the central role in The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), and The Anatomy Lesson (1983). In addition to the Zuckerman saga, Roth has produced several independent novels. Recent work, such as Deception (1991), deals further with the interplay of truth and fiction in the "author's" life. In his most recent work, Patrimony: A True Story (1991), winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, Roth recounts his father's illness and death. Roth has also taken an active interest in the work of Eastern European writers, such as Milan Kundera, (see Vol. 2) and has helped bring their work to the West's attention.

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