Roth's Latest Doesn't Measure Up

New Novel's protagonist too earnest for a fun read, says Kakutani
By Lev Weinstein,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2008 6:11 PM CDT
This photo released by Houghton Mifflin shows the cover of "Indignation" by Philip Roth.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Unlike the emotionally twisted and tortured heroes of Philip Roth's finer works, the dead 19-year-old narrator of Indignation is an uncomplicated soul—and the novel suffers because of its milquetoast protagonist, writes Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. "All of Marcus' unrelieved niceness makes for a somewhat pallid narrative," Kakutani says.

The lack of any sort of character evolution, argues Kakutani, makes the minor choices that coalesce into a hideous fate "read like an elaborate, blackly comic joke, "though one whose punch line "doesn't amount to a full-fledged novel." Rather, despite the theme of "the individual being hit head on by the locomotive of history," Indignation "possesses nether the ambition nor the scope" of which Roth is capable.