"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Plot Against America

Title: The Plot Against America
Author: Philip Roth

This is an amazing book. And that opening sentence should signal that this won't be a critical review. I've been reminded that Roth, an author I haven't read for many years, is a true wordsmith, a writer who has honed his craft and is capable of transporting the reader into his fictional realm.

This time, he's presented us with an alternate history of the United States, a reality in which Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh becomes a presidential candidate and beats FDR when Roosevelt runs for a third term. The story is told by Roth, who uses his own life and family as the basis of his protagonist, a nine-year-old Philip who lives with his own youthful fears which become magnified as the world changes around him and there is real cause for fear.

Lindbergh is determined to keep the US out of the European war, something most Americans want. But along with his desire to keep Americans safe is an insidious plan to assimilate, separate, and segregate America's Jews, a plan that on the surface seems harmless and even worthwhile. But isn't that how it usually starts, with something small and seemingly insignificant, something seemingly harmless that is just one step in an ongoing plot to slowly erode the rights of some of a country's citizens?

This is a scary book, a story made scary because of its resemblance to reality, the way it exposes the prejudices just below the surface of our reality as well as in the fictional one. It's scary because it could so easily happen here. A cautionary tale, well told. This is a great book by one of our best writers.