Indignation is propelled by Roth's characteristic clarity and control, with odd touches of humor, but might better be called Anxiety. He juxtaposes generational and cultural clashes, limned with a strong portrait of midwestern, anti-communist morality, in such a way as to portray--it seems to me--individuals melting under the weight of fear of the Korean War in the wake of World War II, rather than individuals well-grounded in what he terms "indignation." There is too much confusion and uncertainty for the people in this novella to be truly indignant, their values and views being compromised by less worthy forces. Rather, they seem hectored, afraid, thwarted, and belittled--and anxious that the future will bring them more of such abuse.The peculiar frame of a story being told by a Korean war casualty, dead at 19, doesn't work for me. It's neither fantastic enough, nor post-modern enough. It feels imposed by Roth editorially.Having written that, I still think Roth is one of the best sentence-for-sentence writers active today. There is a magisterial confrontation between Marcus, the protagonist, and his manipulative dean of students, that's a tour de force of strong prose and dialogue. And there's a protracted mother-son bargaining session, which the reader knows Marcus will betray as soon as he is able, that carries the same weight.Roth's skill in detailing the oddities of everyday life (in this case the life and times of a kosher butcher) remains impressive. I'm reminded of his fascinating descriptions in American Pastoral, writing about glove-making. (And of Updike writing about typesetting).
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund