The Human Stain (American Trilogy #3)

The Human Stain (American Trilogy #3)

by Philip Roth

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The Human Stain 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 72 reviews.
E_Caine More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth is the modern master of the American novel and The Human Stain is a wonderful example of why he deserves that distinction. It is difficult and surly. Not to read, it is wonderfully written, but to digest. It casts a light on aspects of being both human and an American that few of us dare examine. It is a skeleton in everyone's closet that no one wants to reveal but that, once felt, must be confronted. It is a novel that will do what so few novels can, challenge you to examine the very notion of what you think you are. As uncomfortable as that may be, it is an experience that no person should forego.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth is simply one of the best authors today. His novels, including this one, contain complex story lines and deal with a number of issues. A great read! but those that prefer easy reads, such as Dan Brown's DaVinci Code.
Orbit0 More than 1 year ago
I'm in awe of the authors command of the English language. The book haunts the soul long after you put it down. Don't be surprised if you're disappointed in humanity as a whole when you are done. I was. Still am.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book's plot was very interesting and exciting. However, the writing, although very well done and eloquent was not done so in a fashion as to captivate readers. The reading was actually tedious, and boring. However, a good story if you can get over the boredom.
MichaelTheAuthorMG More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth's The Human Stain is an excellent example of what T.S. Eliot described in his essay, "Tradition and the Individual Talent." First, let's note that "Roth" derives from the German word for red. And the surname of his petite French professor, Delphine Roux, whose interview costume of a mini-kilt and tights resembles the getup of a French poule, means reddish brown. The novel's hero, Professor Coleman Silk, aka Silberzweig, like Sammy Davis, Jr., is a pale-skinned Negro Jew who can and does pass as Caucasian. Like Hemingway's Robert Cohn, he is also an accomplished boxer. As dean of the fictional Athena College in the Berkshires, he comes to "Roux" having hired Delphine, who perversely has an unrequited crush on him. Her loneliness brings to mind the dictum of Zorba the Greek: "When a woman sleeps alone, it is a disgrace to every man." But at 71, Coleman, aided by Viagra -- whose properties I think Roth misconstrues and exaggerates -- prefers an uneducated but by no means stupid janitoress. The theme of overthrowing one's origins and succeeding in life on one's own terms seems like an illustration of Arthus Miller's essay, "The Family in Modern Drama." As in most novels, there are some improbable twists of plot, e.g., the narrator's naivete in thinking that by moving he can escape the story's villain, or the police department's failure to check Delphine's office for fingerprints after it has been trashed -- by her, not, as she claims, by the just deceased Coleman. The book contains one literary term not found in any dictionary I've consulted: diegetic; but its antecedent noun, diegesis, is defined in an online dictionary as a narrative explanation, i.e., a narrative exegesis, to which latter word it is obviously related etymologically. Roth's complex development of all the book's characters, his Jamesian sentences, and distilled wisdom render this work a tour de force well worth reading and highly recommended.
Persaus More than 1 year ago
The characters slide in one on you without you noticing that you not only like them at first, they seem familar to me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At times this book was very verbose, which made for some challenging reading. Even so, I needed to get to what ended up being a very unfulfilling ending. On a positive note, I got to use the nook dictionary frequently.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a captivating book that remains with the reader long after the book is finished. This was my first Philip Roth novel and I look forward to my next one...The Human Stain was a mesmerizing experience
Doey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book would have been great if Philip Roth had written it 20 years earlier when the subjects covered in the book were controversial and actually mattered in life and academia. Hiding one's race was vital in the '50s and '60s. By the time Roth got around to writing this, the issue of race was not an issue in universities, thereby making the book trivial.
seventime on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I adore and admire this novel.
rmckeown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As my legions of readers know, I have recently rediscovered Philip Roth. Although I still do not appreciate the artistry of Goodbye, Columbus, I have really enjoyed several of his later works. The Human Stain has added greatly to my admiration of this fine writer.Few writers delve into the psychology of characters the way Roth does. The intense reflection and the detailed examination of motives, actions, and consequences make for absorbing reads. As I have said many times, I believe good characters drive a good story. These characters surprise, alarm, and bring the reader deep into the psychological gymnastics we all go through, sometimes unconsciously, every day. Roth brings all these emotions, fears, joys, prejudices, and hopes right out in the open.Stain is the first ¿Zuckerman¿ novel I have read, but by no means will it be the last. Nathan Zuckerman, the narrator, is a writer, and as revealed in the closing pages, we have read as he writes. We make discoveries along with him. Some of the passages are long, and this novel requires a great deal of concentration as he meanders among the characters and situations. Many of these ring true on many levels. For example, I know a Delphine Roux. I have seen students complain to administration over harmless, off-hand remarks made in class. I have seen the petty jealousies and political maneuvering in the perpetual turf wars of academia.Realism is the hallmark of Roth¿s novels, and The Human Stain clearly ranks as one of his masterpieces. I see a large shelf, with all his books, in my future. Caution: Raw language throughout with graphic depictions of some sexual situations. Five stars.--Jim, 4/29/09
librarianbryan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great characterizations, especially the parts about how our moral selves are formed. If Roth could have been more deft with the plot at the end it would have got five stars.
BriannaNo2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth¿s ¿Human Stain¿ surprised me. I¿ve wanted to read the last part of his American Trilogy series for years, but all I remembered from a summary I once read was that it is about a college professor¿s affair with a younger woman. How inept a description of the novel this is! It is a book that cries out for a re-read, because only in the end you realize the depth of the plot and the connections between the characters. Suddenly you realize that despite their superficial differences, within, they are all dealing with the same insecurities. I had to fight for the first 100 pages or so to continue reading, but as soon as the whole enterprise crystallizes there was no stopping me and the pages just flew by. Set against the 1998 Lewinsky scandal, it is a book about perception and deception. Nobody is who you think they are. This is a book about the depth of human existence. There are so many sides to us that we cannot be summarized in or described by one or two characteristics. Given the many acquaintances we make during our lives, the many turns we take along the way, we only reveal fragments of ourselves to the people around us. Nobody can say that they know us to our full extend. What essentially makes us human is our capacity to be so many things at the same time. So that maybe even we ourselves cannot always be sure of who we really are.
Rynooo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Angry and cerebral but a little dry for my taste.
kJ. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I initially had a great deal of trouble getting into the flow of this book, due to Roth's jumps between time and location, his lengthy paragraphs (some of which extend for 5 pages) and the numerous changes in direction the novel took. In the end, however, this is what sealed The Human Stainas a great story. It took me in places I did not expect to go while elaborating on characters I assumed would remain in the background. In particular, I loved Roth's beautiful characterisation of Delphine Roux, a hideous woman who I found myself wanting to read more and more about. To me, this illustrates the skill of a great writer, able to keep you turning the pages despite describing a personality so revolting. Still, though, you can't help but feel for this character in turmoil. The passages that concerned Vietnam veteran Lester Farley also left me amazed, brilliantly bringing the horrific ramifications of war to reality.I also have to commend Roth's ability to create conflictions within the reader. Many times I found my self cringing at the words, and yet nodding my head simultaneously, hating what was happening and yet understanding why it was necessary.While on the surface, Roth raises questions about identity, humanity and relationships, there are so many ideas jammed into this novel, every passage bursting with insights.Once I settled with the fact that this book was not going to go where I wanted, I sat back and relaxed as Philip Roth took me on a marvelous ride.
janey47 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could never quite get why people raved so much about Roth until I read The Human Stain. It has passages of some of the best writing I've read in recent years, and it's sad and it's thought-provoking and it's funny. The film could never match the book because of the nature of film. The book is written from a particular point of view -- the perennial Zuckerman, who looks at Coleman Silk and thinks about how Silk's life happened to move in the paths that it did. This is a FAR cry from just telling Silk's story, which the film more or less purports to do. In the book Zuckerman is always saying to himself things like: So I thought about what it would have been like or what would have motivated him.... And that makes it very moving in a really quiet and lovely way. But there are also just hysterically funny passages. And the characters are drawn so vividly. There are other books of Roth's that I like a lot, but to my mind nothing measures up to this.
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roth is a genius and the Human Stain does not disappoint. A wonderful commentary on political correctness and race.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A college professor is forced to resign for alleged racism and begins an affair with an illiterate woman. In my opinion, this is very close to the perfect book. The writing is genius, and the scope of the book is enormous.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(#40 in the 2004 Book Challenge)I liked it very much, it's about a college professor who resigns over allegations that he made a racially insensitive remark in the classroom, and then it turns out that he has this other secret that that he's keeping a lid on. Lots of Roth exposition.Grade: A Recommended: To people who maybe haven't read Philip Roth before, and are looking to start. I think this would be a good one. I've decided to personally back him for the next American to win a Nobel in literature.
phoenixcomet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disturbing story of how what is said by a college professor is completely twisted by the administration leading to the demise of his career. The irony is that the Jewish professor is hiding the fact that he is part black, and that he was accused of racism.
BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roth, Philip. The Human Stain. Vintage International, New York, 2000. Applied the 50-page rule and gave up on this book. Chapter 1 was interesting, and kept me going along with the plot & characters. Chapter 2 really took me by surprise. But I just couldn't make it through chapter 3. The writing was too random & self-indulgent. The pointless moralizing about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the stream-of-consciousness passage about crows -- I'm out of college, I don't need to spend my time reading such disjointed rubbish.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wish I could have read The Human Stain in college with a talented professor and insightful fellow students. This book has so many lively discussion points - it's a shame to read it alone. It's your typical "hard" college read - lots of literary devices, character development and narrative interpretations. As you peel away these literary layers, you are left with an interesting story that explores race, betrayal and envy - things that can leave a stain on a human heart.The Human Stain is a story about Coleman Silk, a seventy-one year old man who had a prestigious career as a college dean, leading his small college into a progressive institution, and rising to academic ranks unheard of by a Jewish man at that time. Before retirement, he decides to return to the classroom, where he makes a comment that is interpreted to be a racial slur against African Americans. The college officials side with the students and formally investigate Coleman. Outraged, Coleman resigns. Ironically, unknown to his peers and family, Coleman Silk is really an African American, "passing" as a Jewish man for more than forty years. "Passing" because he knew that he could not succeed as a black man in academics, because he wanted to do better than his father, because he was "more white than white men."Bitter, Coleman turns to a housekeeper/dairy maid who is forty years his junior, and they begin a torrid affair that will eventually lead to the complete demise of Coleman Silk.Narrated by Roth's long-time character, Nathan Zuckerman, this novel is a complex read with stream of consciousness (usually happening among many characters without introduction, so you have to guess who is thinking) and references to ancient Greek and Latin literature. Despite this, the novel sucks you in because the story is so enthralling and the characters are so real. One hundred years from now, college kids will be reading Philip Roth, much like kids now read John Steinbeck or F. Scott Fitzgerald, because Roth represents smart fiction from this era. If you read The Human Stain prepare to have your brain muscles flexed. It will leave you feeling wiser.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The characters are so real it's like you lived with them. His writing is really great.
tsutsik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read this year. I got hooked to the Zuckerman identy of Roth after reading 'exit ghost' - and I'm reading now more or less backwards the earlier books with Zuckerman. I'm suspecting now you can only really appreciate Roth if you have some life experience. I do remember I've tried to read a book of his when I was about 17 years old, but dropped it after twenty pages or so. (I can't remember the title, It was about a baseball team. Am bound to rediscover it soon).This book is a tribute to Zuckerman's neighbour in upstate New York Coleman Silk; former dean of a college which he has almost single-handed brought to fame, but which has let him down after his allegedly racial abuse against two afro-american students. This provides a starting point for a really startling story about.. yes about what? I think about human identity and the ways we try to carve out a position for ourselves in the world, of making a success of ourselves. Central sentence for me: "The truth about us is endless..". The tragedy of Coleman Silk is that the way he has chosen to fulfil his life requires total obliteration of his former self and identity. Although the atmosphere is dark and sad, the compassion, almost love, which Zuckerman shows when telling the story was very moving.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first book by Roth, it is heavy stuff: complex and disturbing, with a dense and difficult writing style that is also awe-inspiring. The characters and the story are powerful and thought-provoking, very much alive on the page. Reminiscent of [Sophie¿s Choice], by William Styron, its narrator is removed from the action, and the tale deals with secrets and tragedies which are very much bound up with the worst problems of American society. An important read.