November 2010 Indie Next List
“This is a fiercely passionate, devastating book on the themes of hubris and retributive justice set in an elegiac summer camp during an unchecked polio epidemic in the mid 1940s. Roth has done nothing less than create an authentic American counterpart to Greek tragedy. It's a disturbing, unnerving book that keeps you in an increasingly fearful nervous tension. This is Roth in top form.”
— Russ Barker, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
In the stifling heat of equatorial Newark, a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth's wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.
At the center of "Nemesis" is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground and on the everyday realities he faces Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.
Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children's summer camp high in the Poconos whose mountain air was purified of all contaminants Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor's passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.
Through this story run the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth's recent short novels, "Everyman," "Indignation," "The Humbling," and now "Nemesis" What kind of choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?
About the Author
In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for AMERICAN PASTORAL. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA received the Society of American Historians prize for the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004. Recently Roth received PEN s two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.
Dennis Boutsikaris received an Obie Award for his performance in Sight Unseen and was Mozart in Amadeus on Broadway. His films include *batteries not included, The Dream Team, and Boys On The Side. His TV work includes And Then There Was One, The Last Don and Chasing The Dragon; he was most recently the D.A. of NY in Sidney Lumet's 100 Centre Street.