When I read Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America in March I was mesmerized and when I found out that I’ve got another Roth on this list I definitely was excited but I was wondering if The Human Stain was capable of topping The Plot…
Oh yes it did! it did!
Coleman Silk is an ex lecturer who resigns from Athena college due to a misunderstanding. This however creates a lot of anger and stress for Silk and his wife and eventually she does die, which makes Silk even more murderous.
As a way of avenging every person who did not support him in this silly mishap he hires Roth alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman to write out this ordeal in the form of a novel. At this point Silk also has an affair with a 35 year old woman called Faunia, who has had a rough life to say the least.
I think that Roth and politics are inseparable and there’s no change here. It is summer of 1998, when President Clinton was on trial for his actions with Monica Lewinsky, throughout the novel Zuckerman compares the president’s situation with Silk’s problems and finds many similarities, the main one being that we all have secrets that can change the way we live. Obviously Lewinsky was Clinton’s secret and in a way Faunia is Coleman Silk’s secret BUT he has one that changed the course of his whole life and Zuckerman finds out about this accidentally.
As things go Silk and his secrets eventually lead to his demise and as a sort of tribute Zuckerman writes a novel about this turbulent summer and calls it…yes The Human Stain. This refers to the stain that was on Lewinsky’s dress and a comment Faunia makes about humankind.
This is a novel that knocks you out of your chair. Roth’s pen absorbs all that is wrong with society and spits them out in this deeply satirical book. At this point I don’t think Roth can do no wrong and let’s hope there’s some more of his books in this list.