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Le complot contre l'Amérique (Folio t. 4637)

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Lorsque le célèbre aviateur Charles Lindbergh battit le président Roosevelt aux élections présidentielles de 1940, la peur s'empara des Juifs américains. Non seulement Lindbergh avait, dans son discours radiophonique à la nation, reproché aux Juifs de pousser l'Amérique à entreprendre une guerre inutile avec l'Allemagne nazie, mais, en devenant trente-troisième président d Lorsque le célèbre aviateur Charles Lindbergh battit le président Roosevelt aux élections présidentielles de 1940, la peur s'empara des Juifs américains. Non seulement Lindbergh avait, dans son discours radiophonique à la nation, reproché aux Juifs de pousser l'Amérique à entreprendre une guerre inutile avec l'Allemagne nazie, mais, en devenant trente-troisième président des États-Unis, il s'empressa de signer un pacte de non-agression avec Hitler. Alors la terreur pénétra dans les foyers juifs, notamment dans celui de la famille Roth. Ce contexte sert de décor historique au Complot contre l'Amérique, un roman où Philip Roth, qui avait sept ans à l'époque, raconte ce que vécut et ressentit sa famille – et des millions de familles semblables dans tout le pays – lors des lourdes années où s'exerça la présidence de Lindbergh, quand les citoyens américains qui étaient aussi des Juifs avaient de bonnes raisons de craindre le pire. Ce faisant, il nous offre un nouveau chef-d'œuvre.


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Lorsque le célèbre aviateur Charles Lindbergh battit le président Roosevelt aux élections présidentielles de 1940, la peur s'empara des Juifs américains. Non seulement Lindbergh avait, dans son discours radiophonique à la nation, reproché aux Juifs de pousser l'Amérique à entreprendre une guerre inutile avec l'Allemagne nazie, mais, en devenant trente-troisième président d Lorsque le célèbre aviateur Charles Lindbergh battit le président Roosevelt aux élections présidentielles de 1940, la peur s'empara des Juifs américains. Non seulement Lindbergh avait, dans son discours radiophonique à la nation, reproché aux Juifs de pousser l'Amérique à entreprendre une guerre inutile avec l'Allemagne nazie, mais, en devenant trente-troisième président des États-Unis, il s'empressa de signer un pacte de non-agression avec Hitler. Alors la terreur pénétra dans les foyers juifs, notamment dans celui de la famille Roth. Ce contexte sert de décor historique au Complot contre l'Amérique, un roman où Philip Roth, qui avait sept ans à l'époque, raconte ce que vécut et ressentit sa famille – et des millions de familles semblables dans tout le pays – lors des lourdes années où s'exerça la présidence de Lindbergh, quand les citoyens américains qui étaient aussi des Juifs avaient de bonnes raisons de craindre le pire. Ce faisant, il nous offre un nouveau chef-d'œuvre.

30 review for Le complot contre l'Amérique (Folio t. 4637)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Breathtaking and highly realistic, The Plot Against America is Philip Roth's vision of an alternative path history could have taken had Charles Lindbergh have not kept his anti-Semitism as a private matter, but (like Mr Trump) brought it into the political arena. In it, Roth features himself as the 6-8 year old narrator seeing the events from a Jewish kid's eyes in Newark. The scenario is Interesting, but what Roth does best is describe the terror and uncertainty of the days during this fictive version Breathtaking and highly realistic, The Plot Against America is Philip Roth's vision of an alternative path history could have taken had Charles Lindbergh have not kept his anti-Semitism as a private matter, but (like Mr Trump) brought it into the political arena. In it, Roth features himself as the 6-8 year old narrator seeing the events from a Jewish kid's eyes in Newark. The scenario is Interesting, but what Roth does best is describe the terror and uncertainty of the days during this fictive version of 1940-1942 where the US President proudly wears a medal from Hitler (and in real life, Lindbergh did have one from Göring as Roth points out in the fascinating and exhaustive "real history" postscript) and introduces seemingly innocuous programs that are aimed at destroying the Jewish community. I will not give any spoilers because - even if it is too late before Election Day 2016 to read this - it is an excellent book and I would not want someone to read this review and pass it over. I did not give it five stars because as much as I liked it, it was not the narrative, gorgeous masterpiece that American Pastoral or The Human Stain were. Nonetheless, it is in the high end of the Roth oeuvre which I have discovered over the last few months to be endlessly full of surprises and variety - perhaps more so than most of the other writers I have read. Perhaps the Nobel committee would have gotten a callback had Roth been picked over Zimmerman this year? I cannot insist enough that this is a critical book to read NOW. The renaming of Inauguration Day by Drumpf is particularly chilling...and the promotion of Bannon to the National Security Council should scare the shit out of you. And things have just gotten worse over the last nearly three endless painful years. Here is a recent article from the New Yorker where Roth says that Trump is actually far worse than what he had imagined with Lindbergh. Resist, we must resist. The clock continues its inexorable ticking towards a devolution of American democracy. Putin is wringing his hands in delight much like Hitler does in Roth's book. However, it looks more like we are heading into a civil war with two sides that have opposing and irreconcilable views of reality. Let's hope we get a happy ending like that of Plot Against America rather than the dismal end of It Can't Happen Here. Time continues to slip by and the world continues to ressemble the hell in Roth's book. RIP (1933-2018). One of America's literary giants has left us.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Israel didn’t exist yet, six million European Jews hadn’t yet ceased to exist, and the local relevance of distant Palestine (under British mandate since the 1918 dissolution by the victorious Allies of the last far-flung provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire) was a mystery to me…I pledged allegiance to the flag of our homeland every morning at school. I sang of its marvels with my classmates at assembly programs. I eagerly observed its national holidays, and without giving second thought to Israel didn’t exist yet, six million European Jews hadn’t yet ceased to exist, and the local relevance of distant Palestine (under British mandate since the 1918 dissolution by the victorious Allies of the last far-flung provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire) was a mystery to me…I pledged allegiance to the flag of our homeland every morning at school. I sang of its marvels with my classmates at assembly programs. I eagerly observed its national holidays, and without giving second thought to my affinity for Fourth of July fireworks or the Thanksgiving turkey or the Decoration Day double-header. Our Homeland was America. Then the Republicans nominated Lindbergh and everything changed. The three most important things in real estate may be location, location, and location, but when it comes to book reviewing, an argument can certainly be made that the three most important things are timing, timing and timing. A review of this book written in 2004, when the book was published, would have been a lot different from a review written in May, 2017, when Philip Roth’s frightening description of the arrival of fascism in the USA seems to be coming to fruition before our eyes. Philip Roth - image from Salon.com Since the election of one Donald J Trump, there has been a booming business in books about fascism, with a particular interest in what it might look like here in the USA. There are plenty out there that deal with post apocalypse landscapes, and there is certainly the possibility that those might offer a glimpse into our future. But until Swamp Thing opts to launch, there are somewhat lesser scenarios to be considered. Orwell’s 1984 saw a huge boost in sales after the election. Sinclair Lewis’s ironically titled satire, It Can’t Happen Here, also found a new generation of readers. A more recent addition to the group is Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. This 2004 tale has a lot of creepy resonance with extant conditions in the USA of 2017. Substitute an Islamic family today for the Jewish one in Roth’s alt-world to make it really vibrate. Roth was inspired to write the book when he read in Arthur Schlesinger’s autobiography that the more lunatic fringe of the Republican Party had wanted Lindbergh to run. The Plot Against America is an alternate reality scenario in which the GOP does indeed nominate the wildly popular Charles Lindbergh to run against FDR in Roosevelt’s 1940 attempt to gain a third term. Flogging a simplistic isolationist policy (Vote for Lindbergh or Vote for War), Lucky Lindy is elected. [One could argue that Hilary was running for Obama’s third term, so there is a bit of match-up there. And you can’t get much more isolationist than promising to build a wall, so a larger matchup in that.] As with the real Lindbergh, the fictional one has a soft spot for the new regime in Germany. [See Trumpian affection for Putin] President Lindbergh does all he can to back the USA away from involvement in the European War, refusing to provide aid to Britain in its existential struggle. [See Trump withdrawing Republican support for protecting Ukrainian independence in return for help with getting elected] Lindy promotes the America First slogan as part of his isolationist inclinations. [Swamp Thing, tone deaf to the fascistic DNA of the expression, repurposed it to a less focused general feel-good chant, encompassing, ironically, military expansion and intervention, and a rash of trade policies.] Lindbergh even sees that laws are passed to encourage non-Christians to relocate from their urban concentrations to locations where they would again be in decided minorities. [We’re not there yet. But give it time. Trump is still trying to get past the courts to install a Muslim ban. But the notion of setting up camps is definitely on his mind.] This is not a wonderful thing for the Roth family of Newark, living in a largely Jewish community. Our narrator is a fictionalized young Philip, commenting on the goings on from a family perspective. How do the changes affect his father, his friends, his relations, his brother, Sandy, his aunt, Evelyn, neighbors and others? Dad is a die-hard American patriot, who happens to be Jewish. (See the introductory quote at top) He insists that the madness of the new regime is a passing thing, and that the more sober leaders of state will rein in the new demagogic leader. [I expect there are many who believed that DJT would be calmly managed by the more establishment sorts in Washington, as there were many in Germany who believed young Adolph might be managed. How’s that workin’ out for ya?] One thing Roth’s view of the 1940s has that we do not is a central media voice calling out the beast. Walter Winchell is the spoil to Lindy’s autocracy. While there are many voices rising up against Trump in the media, no one has gained the sort of center-stage of opposition that Winchell does here. [Trump tries his best to lump them all together as Fake Media, and they, particularly the Washington Post and NY Times are having a field day exposing DJT’s innumerable screwups and crimes.] People talk about the possibility of leaving the country for Canada. [Ok, show of hands. How many have given at least some thought to the possible appeal of our great northern neighbor, particularly residents of possible nuke-strike targets, like, say NYC, LA, San Diego, Honolulu? Ok, not so many as I expected, but still a fair number. Brings back warm memories of being subject to the draft during those good old Viet Nam War days.] Some in the story manage to get out. Roth the author uses the Roth family as his window into various aspects of the national tip rightward. A young relation leaves for Canada, not to flee, but to join up and fight Hitler, to the delight of the Jewish community. Mom’s sister becomes involved with a power-hungry rabbi, a sort of megachurch media-savvy cleric, who aligns with Lindy and allows himself to be used as a shield for the dictator against claims of anti-Semitism. This is, as one might expect, not received warmly in the Roth household. Philip’s older brother, Sandy. is selected by the notorious aunt to participate in a program that places urban (Jewish) youth in distant (Kentucky) farms to give them more of a feel for real America. This was likely inspired by the Nazi Landjahr program in which teens were brought to country camps for a bracing experience of the outdoors, and heavy doses of propaganda. Our friends in Mao’s China did something similar, forcing intellectuals to work on farms as a way of encouraging them to become closer to manual laborers. Sandy comes back tanned and muscled and is made into a poster boy for the program, again, to the family’s dismay. [Maybe the Donald’s version will send kids to R/E developers to learn how to stiff contractors and refuse to house minorities?] We also see many of the elements of fascism that have graced the world’s past; people being kicked out of their jobs for being Jewish; access to services like hotels being denied for the same reason; mindless adoration of the vaunted leader [see any Trump rally, or persistent support from his base in the face of relentless exposure of his traitorous dealings with Russia, and incredibly dishonest dealings with pretty much everyone.] At least Lindbergh had done something worthwhile in his pre-presidential life. It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary President like Charles Lindbergh than an actual President like Donald Trump. Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day. Trump is just a con artist. The relevant book about Trump’s American forebear is Herman Melville’s ‘The Confidence-Man,’ the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel—Melville’s last—that could just as well have been called ‘The Art of the Scam.’ ” - Philip Roth from the New Yorker article But back to the story itself. It is a novel and if we are not engaged, all the parallels in the world will not matter. So, will it grab you and hold on? Would I tell you it did if it did not? Ok, answering a question with a question. Who does that? Who doesn’t? Fine, whatever. Young Phil is an appealing sort, although not without his self-serving, even criminal flaws, indulging as he does in some decidedly reprehensible behavior. Despite Phil’s shortcomings, Sandy’s cooptation, and Evelyn’s collaboration, the family is shown as decent people, real, relatable, struggling to cope with the creeping horrors of fascism on top of the usual struggles of working class people. Another great strength of the novel is the rich portrait Roth paints of the community in Newark in which the family lives, the neighborhood people, merchants, and plenty of colorful characters. A powerful central image of the story was Phil’s stamp collection, an example of a pure appreciation of something beautiful, that is subjected in his dreams to unspeakable treatment. My only gripe with the book is that I found the wind-down at the end disappointing, as if, having accomplished what he had set out to do, show what fascism might look like here in the USA and how a Jewish family in America might be affected, there was no need to spend excess energy on plot. But then, he did accomplish what he set out to do, so I guess that counts as a quibble. Bottom line is that The Plot Against America is a very engaging novel for its characters and plot. But the political resonance with America today gives it a particular zing. And if you still think it can’t happen here, consider that the current president of the USA has systematically fired the US Attorney who was looking into his business dealings, the Acting Attorney General who delivered to him damning intel about his National Security Advisor, and the head of the FBI, the man in charge of investigating DJT’s involvement with Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election. At some point he will probably fire Robert Mueller, special counsel newly appointed to take over the Russia-gate investigation from former FBI head Comey. And who knows how many more heads will roll before it is all done? If you think it can’t happen here, consider the very real question of whether there is any action he can take that will force GOP members of the House of Representatives to vote to impeach Trump. NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for one, believes that such a line does not exist, that today’s GOP members have grown so calloused in their partisanship, in their preference for party over country, that they will go along with whatever DJT wants, whatever the cost to our democratic institutions and values. The fascists in Roth’s tale are more ethnically-driven than today’s version, who worship at the altar of business, see tax cuts as a form of Eucharist, and use ethnic hatred and fear of the other as a cynical tool to rev up support for their medieval inclinations. It bloody well can happen here, and it will take national effort and involvement by the American people to keep Philip Roth’s dark vision from becoming reality. Sadly, it has already part-way arrived. Review posted – 5/19/17 Published - 10/5/2004 5/23/2018 - Philip Roth passed away today, at 85. Here is his obit in the New York Times =============================EXTRA STUFF Roth on “Has it Happened Here?” in a January 2017 article in The New Yorker - Philip Roth E-Mails on Trump - by Judith Thurman Roth on how his love of American literature and America shaped him as a writer - I Have Fallen in Love with American Names How does Donald Trump stack up against American literature’s fictional dictators? Pretty well, actually. – By Carlos Lozada First It’s the Muslims: An Evolution to Dictatorship – by David Crane The Bund was a German organization in America that supported Hitler. They staged a huge rally in Madison Square Garden and ran Nazi youth camps that were like the LandJahr program being run in Germany Here is wiki on Landjahr – it is in German but Google translates it nicely to English Madeline Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning, is definitely worth a look -----October 15, 2018 - A nice short video that puts the current danger into historical context - If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be -----February 24, 2019 - NY Times - Putin’s One Weapon: The ‘Intelligence State’ - by John Sipher - a former CIA station chief points out the long history of political interference in the West by Moscow

  3. 4 out of 5

    William2

    Counter-factual historical fiction, in the manner of Robert Harris' Fatherland. In it, Charles Lindbergh, the anti-Semitic aviator and admirer of the Nazis, wins the U.S. presidency by campaigning against FDR on a platform of non-intervention in the European war. I think the novel has special resonance now that a certain demagogic New York "billionaire," known primarily for his nattering narcissism and pathological lying, is licking his mid-term wounds in the Oval Office. Though at times intrica Counter-factual historical fiction, in the manner of Robert Harris' Fatherland. In it, Charles Lindbergh, the anti-Semitic aviator and admirer of the Nazis, wins the U.S. presidency by campaigning against FDR on a platform of non-intervention in the European war. I think the novel has special resonance now that a certain demagogic New York "billionaire," known primarily for his nattering narcissism and pathological lying, is licking his mid-term wounds in the Oval Office. Though at times intricate and compelling, this is not Roth's best work. It's a somewhat uneven performance from the man who gave us the astonishing American Pastoral and the hilarious through-the-roof masterpiece, The Counterlife. But I'd argue that because the result is flatter and more straightforward than usual, one is able to see more plainly the book's structural devices. In his more dazzling works, the technique tends to vanish within the beguiling magic of his prose.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    An alternative blip in history, it melds a terrifying possibility with the timeline of WWII. It’s worth reading and, I liked it. The ending made me think of the sound a phonograph needle would make if you drug it to the right track.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I cannot tell a lie. George Washington WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY! 1 star bonus (lifting it from 4 stars) in 2018 { козырь } From The Plot Against America “The pompous son of a bitch knows everything. It's too bad he doesn't know anything else.” "--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others” “How can people like these be in charge of our“How"--nor I cannot tell a lie. George Washington WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY! 1 star bonus (lifting it from 4 stars) in 2018 { козырь } From The Plot Against America “The pompous son of a bitch knows everything. It's too bad he doesn't know anything else.” "--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others” “How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.” Philip Roth, The Plot Against America Roth's convincing tale of an alternate U.S. history has been made all the more plausible by recent events. I mean, look again at these quotes. In this 1940 America, the heroic Charles Lindbergh, known as an isolationist and admirer of Hitler in his early years, is elected U.S. President in a landslide over FDR by voters fearful of becoming involved in another European war. The U.S. does not get involved in WWII and the election unleashes a swelling tide of anti-Semitism resulting, ultimately, in assignments of Jewish citizens to certain areas designated by the U.S. government's new Office of American Absorption. Roth impressively paints this tense fictional world in the Newark, New Jersey in which he himself was raised. He narrates through his early teen, fictional self providing an absorbing read made more captivating by recent Russian interference with the U.S. Presidential election and even more timely and chilling with this week's announcement that U.S. law enforcement agencies are investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump campaign leaders/associates as well as possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump's campaign. ____________________________________ Update 3/14/17: Great podcast discussion of Novel Trumpcast: Discussion of The Plot Against America and what Roth's 2004 novel can tell us about the current state of affairs [3/14/17: White House officials admit no evidence to backup his latest Twitter claim {that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Towers campaign HQ} intended to distract attention from legislative and FBI investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia and its attempt to influence Americans' election of President of the United States] It is now life and not art that requires the willing suspension of disbelief." Lionel Trilling “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it, so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.” Jonathan Swift

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States--with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election--ends with The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, an elaborately woven and eerily prognostic alternate history. Published in 2004, the Pulitzer Prize winner supposes that aviator, dinner party anti-Semite and Nazi Party favorite Charles A. Lindbergh wins My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States--with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election--ends with The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, an elaborately woven and eerily prognostic alternate history. Published in 2004, the Pulitzer Prize winner supposes that aviator, dinner party anti-Semite and Nazi Party favorite Charles A. Lindbergh wins the Republican Party nomination in 1940. On a platform of "America First" and keeping the U.S.A. out of war, Lindy defies pollsters and denies President Franklin D. Roosevelt a third term. His regime targets a religious minority, in this case, Jews. The audacious story is the first person account of Philip Roth, who in 1940 really was a seven-year-old postage stamp collector growing up in the Jewish enclave of Weequahic in Newark, New Jersey, where the novel is set. The alternate history Philip has a twelve year old brother named Sandy, a prodigious artist. Their father Herman is a thirty-nine year old insurance agent whose fifty-dollar per week salary pays the bills and little more. Their thirty-six-year-old mother Bess is a tiny woman who manages the household. She shares her husband's ardor for the United States, the Constitution, President Roosevelt, the New Deal and the Democratic Party. Philip recounts how Charles Lindbergh was once a hero in his neighborhood, following the aviator's historic flight from Long Island to Paris aboard the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927. Eleven years later, Germany's mounting terror campaign against Jews is underway across Europe and Lindbergh accepts a Service Cross of the German Eagle during a visit to Berlin. A stoic celebrity who reaps public sympathy following the mysterious kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, Lindy strides into a deadlocked Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1940. Philip and Sandy are wakened by the exclamation of their mother, father and older cousin Alvin as they listen by radio. The anger that night was the real roaring forge, the furnace that takes you and twists you like steel. And it didn't subside--not while Lindbergh stood silently at the Philadelphia rostrum and heard himself being cheered once again as the nation's savoir, nor when he gave the speech accepting his party's nomination and with it the mandate to keep America out of the European war. We all waited in terror to hear him repeat to the convention his malicious vilification of the Jews, but that he didn't made no difference to the mood that carried every last family on the block out into the street at nearly five in the morning. Entire families known to me previously only fully dressed in daytime clothing were wearing pajamas and nightdresses under their bathrobes and milling around in their slippers at dawn as if driven from their homes by an earthquake. In the short term, the Roths' spirits are raised by their national heroes. President Roosevelt welcomes a celebrity opponent in Lindbergh with no political experience who is on record for supporting foreign dictators and disparaging Jews. Bombastic muckracker Walter Winchell minces no words in assailing Lindbergh in his weekly radio broadcast. They join luminaries such as New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis and journalist Dorothy Thompson pronouncing Lindbergh as unfit for office. Philip's cousin Alvin, however, predicts that America is going fascist. He departs for Canada to join the fight against Hitler. Polls two weeks before the election show FDR comfortably ahead in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Republican officials reportedly grouse at Lindbergh's insistence to steer his own campaign, piloting the Spirit of St. Louis from state to state and offering nil about his potential administration. His platform is simple: Your choice is Lindbergh or war. His campaign gets an assist from Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf of Newark's B'nai Moshe temple when he vouches for Lindbergh at a rally in Madison Square Garden. The rabbi's message to gentiles that a vote for Lindy is not a vote for antisemitism spurs a landslide victory for the challenger. President Lindbergh meets Adolf Hitler in Iceland to sign an "understanding" of non-aggression, as well as with emissaries of Emperor Hirohito in Hawaii. The deals ignite protests in a dozen U.S. cities, but most of the country rejoices at peace. In an attempt to show Philip and Sandy that America has not gone fascist, the Roths undertake a vacation to Washington D.C. Returning to their hotel, the Roths discover that their reservation has been canceled and they've been evicted. Bess is skittish to the point of tipping over into paranoia. Her husband is unable to keep his antipathy for the new president quiet, drawing remarks of "loudmouth Jew" from two tourists at the Lincoln Memorial. But my father could see nothing. "You think you'd hear that here if Roosevelt was president? People wouldn't dare, they wouldn't dream, in Roosevelt's day ...," my father said. "But now that our great ally is Adolf Hitler, now that the best friend of the president of the United States is Adolf Hitler--why, now they think they can get away with anything. It's disgraceful. It starts with the White House ..." Whom was he talking to other than me? My brother was trailing after Mr. Taylor, asking about the mural, and my mother was trying to prevent herself from saying or doing anything, struggling against the very emotions that had overpowered her earlier in the car--and back then without anything like this much justification. "Read that,"my father said, alluding to the tablet bearing the Gettysburg Address. "Just read it. 'All men are created equal.'" While the president praises Hitler as the world's safeguard against the spread of Communism and Germany pushes the Russians east, the Lindbergh administration hits close to home for the Roths by forming the Office of American Absorption and the Just Folks campaign, a "mentoring" program for select Jewish boys aged twelve to eighteen offering eight weeks with a sponsor family to learn farming. Bess' younger sister Evelyn, secretary and mistress to Rabbi Bengelsdorf, helps Sandy qualify for the program, which his father sees through as a fifth column intended to set Jewish boys against their elders and fracture the community. Alvin loses his left leg below the knee in battle and returns to Newark. Philip assists his cousin with his bandaged stump and tries to keep his brother Sandy's admiration for Lindbergh a secret from his cousin, who feels like a chump for going off to fight Hitler for the benefit of Philip's father. He learns to walk again using a prosthetic and takes a job at a grocer owned by another uncle, but when an FBI agent shows up asking questions about Alvin, his uncle buckles under pressure and fires his nephew, who disappears to work in a numbers-running racket. When Sandy is invited to the White House by his Aunt Evelyn, his mother and father refuse, devastating Philip's brother. Shepsie Tirschwell, a projectionist at the Newsreel Theater, sees what's going on in current events and tells Herman that he's moving his family to Montreal. Bess takes a seasonal job at a department store and opens a savings account in Canada in case they too need to leave in a hurry. Her husband refuses to be driven from his country, offering that it is the fascists who should get out. In May 1942, his employer complies with Homestead 42, an initiative by the OAA to thin ethnic minorities from the cities and resettle them in rural areas, purportedly to homogenize the nation. His decision to quit his job turns out to be prescient, while his refusal to leave for Canada is perilous. Bess is livid. "And just where do they get the gall to do this to people?" my mother asked. "I am dumbfounded, Herman. Our families are here. Our lifelong friends are here. The children's friends are here. We have lived in peace and harmony here all of our lives. We are only a block from the best elementary school in Newark. We are a block from the best high school in New Jersey. Our boys have been raised among Jews. They go to school with other Jewish children. There is no friction with the other children. There is no name-calling. There are no fights. They have never had to feel left out and lonely the way I did as a child. I cannot believe the company is doing this to you. The way you have worked for these people, the hours that you put in, the effort--and this," she said angrily, "is the reward." Like many of Philip Roth's books, The Plot Against America has a clunky title that indicates non-fiction or a symposium, anything but a compelling novel. And before this year, it might not have been. It seems as if half the book is a riff on Roth's boyhood in Newark--his family relations, his odd friendships, his search for his identity. The autobiographical detail grows self-indulgent and my eyes even started to glaze over paragraphs wandering away from President Lindbergh or his destructive impact on the Roths. The author favors marathon sentences and can spend two paragraphs describing nuns, which does not lend itself to a tense dystopian read. The marvel of the novel is how seamlessly it blends historical fact and devastating fantasy, as well as how accurately it predicts a regime change in the United States. Given his era and his military bent, Lindbergh is stoic where our current president is emotionally unstable, but Lindy is as great a celebrity, cruising through his first election campaign (against a heavily favored Democrat) by appealing to the country's best intentions as well as its base hatreds, against politicians, the media and an ethnic minority. The fear Lindbergh's statements and policies strike in Jews is analogous to that felt by immigrants in our country today and laid out for all its repulsive fascism by Roth. If there was a novel that utilizes fantasy elements to address the very real fear and hatred being stoked right now, and why none of us are going to like where "America First" leads, The Plot Against America is it. The autobiographical material that serves as a bedrock did grow long in the tooth, but at the same time, the overall effect grounds the novel in reality in a way that science fiction cannot when tackling authoritarian dystopia. Roth's approach is highly effective, personal and chilling the deeper he takes us into Lindbergh's presidency. He includes a handy postscript that offers a true chronology of the historical figures who play a role in this eerie alternate history. The novel offers a warning, which Mayor LaGuardia voices memorably: "There's a plot afoot all right, and I'll gladly name the forces propelling it--hysteria, ignorance, malice, stupidity, hatred, and fear. What a repugnant spectacle our country has become! Falsehood, cruelty, and madness everywhere, and brute force in the wings waiting to finish us off. Now we read in the Chicago Tribune that all these years clever Jewish bakers have been using the blood of the kidnapped Lindbergh child for making Passover matzohs in Poland--a story as nutty today as when it was first concocted by anti-Semitic maniacs five hundred years ago. How it must please the Führer to be poisoning our country with this sinister nonsense. Jewish interests. Jewish elements. Jewish usurers. Jewish retaliation. Jewish conspiracies. A Jewish war against the world. To have enslaved America with this hocus-pocus! To have captured the mind of the world's greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth! Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth!"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    "And how long will the American people stand for this treachery perpetrated by their elected president? How long will Americans remain asleep while their cherished Constitution is torn to shreds?" Not a big fan of alternative history at all, even though thought experiments like Harris' Fatherland create an atmosphere of chilling excitement, I was skeptical when I started on this bestseller. Being a big fan of Roth in general, I was suspicious of both the genre he had chosen and the success it had - it did "And how long will the American people stand for this treachery perpetrated by their elected president? How long will Americans remain asleep while their cherished Constitution is torn to shreds?" Not a big fan of alternative history at all, even though thought experiments like Harris' Fatherland create an atmosphere of chilling excitement, I was skeptical when I started on this bestseller. Being a big fan of Roth in general, I was suspicious of both the genre he had chosen and the success it had - it didn't bode well. What can I say? Seeing America in the hypnotised grip of a fascist leader seems less and less like an "alternative history" to me, and I have to acknowledge Roth's political instincts. The story of Charles Lindbergh winning a landslide victory against Roosevelt during the Second World War could definitely have happened in the divisive political climate of today, so the "What if?"-effect of the novel has turned into a sigh of frustration: "That's it! - Only worse!" So as a prophesy of the current developments in America, I will give the novel all the credit it deserves. It is well-written and exciting, and has some vintage Rothisms. BUT. It is not as good as his other novels, unfortunately, and compared with himself, Roth loses ground in this story which would be a less talented writer's masterpiece. It is a bit too simplistic, bowing too much to sensationalist, bestselling writing techniques, to be a true critical study of America in decline. Roth can do better than this, and that says more about him than about the novel. It is a good read, whereas he can be brilliant!

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    My One 4th of July, Apple Pie, Patriotic, Love America and Truly Make Sure it doesn't get flushed down the fascist toilet book for 2019: “Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn't. Except when it does.”—Philip Roth, The Plot Against America The Plot Against America is a must read for our times. A tour de force (and also sort of tour de [dark] farce) that is at turns funny and scary and moving, it is an alternate history novel exploring “what if” isolationist and anti-Semit My One 4th of July, Apple Pie, Patriotic, Love America and Truly Make Sure it doesn't get flushed down the fascist toilet book for 2019: “Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn't. Except when it does.”—Philip Roth, The Plot Against America The Plot Against America is a must read for our times. A tour de force (and also sort of tour de [dark] farce) that is at turns funny and scary and moving, it is an alternate history novel exploring “what if” isolationist and anti-Semitic aviation hero Charles Lindberg had actually defeated FDR in 1940, running on an anti-war platform, and had made a pact with Hitler, whose tyranny—unimpeded by the USA as a key ally—then continued unabated. Specifically, Roth wonders what effects Lindberg’s presidency might have had on his actual decidedly Jewish family, somewhat fictionalized in this novel. Young Philip, 7, is inspired by his father’s opposition to both Hitler and Lindberg, as is his cousin Alvy, who actually enlists with The Canadian Army (because Lindberg fulfills his promise of America First—with a focus on isolationism—and doesn’t allow the US military to fight Germany) and loses his leg in France, thereby getting Philip’s rich uncles to blame Philip’s father for that, for even wanting to fight Hitler’s fascism in Europe. Alvy, having fought for Canada, is increasingly harassed as anti-American, for choosing to fight Hitler, who becomes, thanks to Lindberg, a kind of ally of the US! Yikes. One way Lindberg gets elected is that a prominent New Jersey rabbi argues for Lindberg and against the war. Lindberg's first domestic initiative is the creation of the Office of American Absorption to "encourage America's religious and national minorities to become further incorporated into the larger society." The focus here is on the better assimilation of Jews in particular. The OAA also later develops the Homestead Act, which helps relocate Jews and other minorities. Sound familiar, Native Americans? Or does it sound a little like deportation or travel bans, in principle? Anyway, Phil’s brother Sandy goes to a farm in Kentucky for the summer, and loves it, becoming for a time aligned with Lindberg and a spokesperson for the OAA program. “To have enslaved America with this hocuspocus! To have captured the mind of the world's greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth! Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth!”—Philip’s Dad, actually speaking of Lindberg, and not you-know-who Sound ridiculous and possibly paranoid? Well, that’s what I initially thought. But it is one storytelling feat to make the basis for the story outlandish, even screwy, and yet on some level make it darkly reasonable and frightening. Could an isolationist fascist become President of the US of A?! Nah, it can’t happen here. But as Philip’s father says, “What do you mean it can’t happen here? It is happening here!” Roth works in actual forties historical characters throughout. For instance, Walter Winchell, the liberal journalist, remains just as anti-fascist as he was in real life in this version of American forties reality. With the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, Winchell actually becomes the Democratic candidate for President. But when Winchell takes his act on the road to (anti-Semitic) Father Coughlin’s Detroit, America’s Kristallnacht begins, and all hell breaks loose, especially for Jews in America. Fascism reigns, though that’s not the end of the story. Maybe ultimately this novel is a reminder or rejoinder to Jewish (and other pacifists) who might have once opposed any war against fascism or dictatorships elsewhere. Roth is saying that sometimes war is justified, and the war against Hitler was for him surely justified. And Roth doesn’t really care about Lindberg. What he cares about is an electorate he sees as awed by media darlings, and moved by simple slogans like America First (both Lindberg’s and Trump’s actual slogan), Big Business Types who promise us riches and scare us about threats to security and demonize and scapegoat particular minority groups in the process. But the main hero of this tale is really Roth’s Dad, raging against the rise of fascism in America. As Philip says, “There were two types of strong men: those like Uncle Monty and Abe Steinheim, remorseless about their making money, and those like my father, ruthlessly obedient to their idea of fair play.” Roth’s mother is also admirable in steadfastly clinging to goodness and caring regardless of what craziness happens. This book, written decades before Trump, has political targets, but it is also a love letter to his good, liberal, working-class parents. “How can this be happening in America?”—Philip’s mother Did Roth in 2005 have in mind a cautionary tale for America’s future? He says no. But here is Roth emailing with The New Yorker that the Lindberg nightmare fantasy he wrote about is nothing compared to what Trump could be for this country: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201... “How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.” –Philip’s mother I also just read The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which posits a ridiculous clownish, crude and rude Hitler-like gangster rising to power in Chicago, ready to take over the country. It can’t really happen here, can it?! I’m just paranoid, right?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    HBO orders six episodes in November 2018, after almost a year of negotiations. Damnably timely today, 27 October 2018, after the Tree of Life shooting. This book should be as high on your TBR as 1984, Animal Farm, Snowball's Chance, and Christian Nation are already. I hope they are, anyway. 2018 UPDATE The book is going to be a miniseries! Huzzah. Now go read the article, because Philip Roth does a 45 takedown that made me guffaw in agony. Rating: 4* of five In my quest for article-fodder, I reread this bo/>2018 HBO orders six episodes in November 2018, after almost a year of negotiations. Damnably timely today, 27 October 2018, after the Tree of Life shooting. This book should be as high on your TBR as 1984, Animal Farm, Snowball's Chance, and Christian Nation are already. I hope they are, anyway. 2018 UPDATE The book is going to be a miniseries! Huzzah. Now go read the article, because Philip Roth does a 45 takedown that made me guffaw in agony. Rating: 4* of five In my quest for article-fodder, I reread this book. I'd forgotten how much I dislike Roth's use of "Philip Roth" as a character, it still feels like a cutesy-poo arched eyebrow and crooked little finger at a tea party given by That Cousin *pursed lips and tiny warning shakes of the head* of Your Father's. But the election of President Lindbergh didn't so much as raise a hair in my truth-sensitive eyebrows. The slow descent into thuggish public behavior as the new norm, the collective "meh, so what" from those not affected, the disbelieving helplessness of the affected...Roth nailed it. Look around you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a 2004 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. It goes without saying that Pulitzer prize winner, Phillip Roth, is a prolific writer. While I have appreciated the books of his I have read, they are often very heavy, and I can only take them in small doses. But, I don’t know if I would have tried this one, if it had not been for Professor Snyder recommending it, in his book, ‘On Tyranny’. I was a little concerned about the ‘alternate’ history format, beca The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a 2004 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. It goes without saying that Pulitzer prize winner, Phillip Roth, is a prolific writer. While I have appreciated the books of his I have read, they are often very heavy, and I can only take them in small doses. But, I don’t know if I would have tried this one, if it had not been for Professor Snyder recommending it, in his book, ‘On Tyranny’. I was a little concerned about the ‘alternate’ history format, because for it to make sense, the reader needs to know the real history well enough to understand what does or does not work in the speculative world. ‘Their being Jews issued from their being themselves, as did their being American. It was as it was, the nature of things, as fundamental as having arteries and veins, and they never manifested the slightest desire to change it.” In this case, a simple basic knowledge of the era is sufficient, but I did find it helpful to know a little more personal history about Charles Lindbergh. Understanding the small nuances of his character gave this book an even more sinister quality. But, of course, the most chilling aspect of this novel is that Roth might have had accessto a crystal ball, foreseeing what could happen, might happen, and actually did happen. ‘The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic’ The sad, honest, truth is, if I had read this book two years ago, I would have viewed it as genius, as eerily believable, as a coming of age tale, or who knows what other feelings I may have expressed about it, but reading it today, in our current political climate, the book takes on an entirely different tone. It no longer feels like clever speculative or alternative fiction, but instead, it feels too realistic, hits too close to home, and basically left me with a feeling of impending doom, turning, tossing, and fretting. I do urge everyone to read this book, if you haven’t already. If you have, read it again, because I think living through these dark days, the book will make a deeper impression on you. As to the writing, pacing, and all the usual things we mention in reviews, I don’t think that it’s necessary to delve into all that. It’s Phillip Roth. Enough said. But, what does bear mentioning is, for me, next to ‘The Human Stain’ this book is the best Roth novel, I have read, to date. 5 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Some said Philip Roth is the new messiah of modern writers. Philip Roth is overrated, said others. So I read a couple of Roth's books, Exit Ghost and Everyman. With only those to go on, to me, Roth seemed like your typical aging curmudgeon. Nothing special, just an old man venting through literature his disgruntled annoyance at no longer being able to get an erection. I was ready to call it quits on him, but felt like maybe I should try one more. So I read The Plot Against America. Boy, am I glad I did. Wh Some said Philip Roth is the new messiah of modern writers. Philip Roth is overrated, said others. So I read a couple of Roth's books, Exit Ghost and Everyman. With only those to go on, to me, Roth seemed like your typical aging curmudgeon. Nothing special, just an old man venting through literature his disgruntled annoyance at no longer being able to get an erection. I was ready to call it quits on him, but felt like maybe I should try one more. So I read The Plot Against America. Boy, am I glad I did. What a joy! Indeed, I enjoyed everything about this "what if", coming-of-age tale where horrors, both real and imagined, feed into and upon the novel's building tension. Horrors and the heart of a child. Childhood and the heart of a family. This is war vs. peace. The good, the bad and all that falls in between. This is the story of a young Jewish boy growing up as American as can be in the New Jersey suburbs of the early 1940s. Germany is at war with the world. Hitler and his Nazis are at war with the Jews. President Roosevelt is campaigning for a 3rd term in office. Then Roth throws a monkey wrench into the works, presenting an alternative universe where, instead of facing off with and defeating Wendell Willkie, FDR is confronted with and defeated by the intensely popular Charles Lindbergh. With their flyboy hero at America's helm, the isolationist Republicans as well as the Nazis themselves can use Lindbergh as a tool to meet their ends. Aside from some fiddling with the Lindbergh baby history, that's about where the historical fiction ends. Lindbergh was an isolationist. He did occasionally let slip with an antisemitic remark. He did receive a medal from Goring on behalf of Hitler, and he did refuse to give it up. FDR did believe Charles Lindbergh to be a Nazi. Lindbergh's wife did privately wonder in her diary what the *bleeep!* her Swedish, Arian husband was thinking when he spouted anti Jewish nonsense. There's so very much more that truly did happen, whether you believe it or not, which Roth includes in his novel, but I won't spoil the glorious tapestry that lavishly drapes the background of what is actually Philip Roth's childhood autobiography, at least a fictionalized recounting. Much of The Plot Against America feels just like the movie Stand By Me. Boys being boys, having fun, experiencing life through youthful eyes, making mountains out of mole hills, and nearly getting buried beneath the true mountains. As a coming-of-age tale, you'll find few finer. Prior to reading this, I would've described Roth's work as Vonnegut-esque but without the humor. Here though, the humor - on occasions a bit dark - is in full throat and fine form. I love nothing more than connecting with human behavior via the stories of our interconnect childhoods. We were all young once and it is a pleasure to share that common ground. Roth shares his suburban American-Jewish upbringing at the height of Jewish persecution in the modern age and it is a joy to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn't. Except when it does.”—Philip Roth, The Plot Against America The Plot Against America is a must read for our times. A tour de force (and also sort of tour de [dark] farce) that is at turns funny and scary and moving, it is an alternate history novel exploring “what if” isolationist and anti-Semitic aviation hero Charles Lindberg had actually defeated FDR in 1940, running as he did on an anti-war platform, and had made a pact with Hitler, who “Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn't. Except when it does.”—Philip Roth, The Plot Against America The Plot Against America is a must read for our times. A tour de force (and also sort of tour de [dark] farce) that is at turns funny and scary and moving, it is an alternate history novel exploring “what if” isolationist and anti-Semitic aviation hero Charles Lindberg had actually defeated FDR in 1940, running as he did on an anti-war platform, and had made a pact with Hitler, whose tyranny—unimpeded by the USA as a key ally—then continued unabated. Specifically, Roth wonders what effects Lindberg’s presidency might have had on his actual decidedly Jewish family. Young Philip, 7, is inspired by his father’s opposition to both Hitler and Lindberg, as is his cousin Alvy, who actually enlists with The Canadian Army (because Lindberg fulfills his promise of America First—that nationalism and isolationism—and doesn’t let the US fight Germany) and loses his leg in France, thereby getting Philip’s rich uncles to blame Philip’s father for that, for his even wanting to fight Hitler’s fascism in Europe. Alvy, having fought with Canada, is increasingly harassed as anti-American, for choosing to fight Hitler, who becomes, thanks to Lindberg, a kind of ally of the US! One way Lindberg gets elected is that a prominent New Jersey rabbi argues for Lindberg and against the war. Lindbergh's first domestic initiative is the creation of the Office of American Absorption to "encourage America's religious and national minorities to become further incorporated into the larger society." The focus here is on the better assimilation of Jews in particular. The OAA also later develops the Homestead Act, which helps relocate Jews and other minorities. Sound familiar, Native Americans? Or does it sound a little like deportation or travel bans, in principle? Anyway, Phil’s brother Sandy goes to a farm in Kentucky for the summer, and loves it, becoming for a time aligned with Lindberg and a spokesperson for the program. “To have enslaved America with this hocuspocus! To have captured the mind of the world's greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth! Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth!”—Philip’s Dad Sound ridiculous and possibly paranoid? Well, that’s what I initially thought. But it is one storytelling feat to make the basis for the story outlandish, even screwy, and yet on some level make it darkly reasonable and frightening. Could an isolationist, racist fascist become President of the US of A?! Nah, it can’t happen here. But as Philip’s father says, “What do you mean it can’t happen here? It is happening here!” Roth weaves in actual forties historical characters throughout. For instance, Walter Winchell, the liberal journalist, remains just as anti-fascist as he was in real life in this version of American forties reality. With the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, Winchell actually becomes the Democratic candidate for President. But when Winchell takes his act on the road to (anti-Semitic) Father Coughlin’s Detroit, America’s Kristallnacht begins, and all hell breaks loose, especially for Jews in America. Fascism reigns, though that’s not the end of the story. Maybe ultimately this novel is a reminder or rejoinder to Jewish (and other pacifists) who might have once opposed any war against fascism or dictatorships elsewhere. Roth is saying that sometimes war is justified, and the war against Hitler was for him surely justified. And Roth doesn’t really care about Lindberg. What he cares about is an electorate he sees as awed by media darlings, and moved by simple slogans like America First (both Lindberg’s and 45's slogan) that allow him to demonize and scapegoat particular minority groups. But the main focus of this tale is really Roth’s Dad, raging against the rise of fascism in America. As Philip says, “There were two types of strong men: those like Uncle Monty and Abe Steinheim, remorseless about their making money, and those like my father, ruthlessly obedient to their idea of fair play.” Roth’s mother is also just as admiable in steadfastly clinging to goodness and caring regardless of what craziness happens. This book has political targets, but it is also a love letter to his good, liberal, working-class parents. “How can this be happening in America?”—Philip’s mother Did Roth in 2005 have in mind a cautionary tale for America’s future? He says no. But here is Roth emailing with The New Yorker that the Lindberg nightmare fantasy he wrote about is nothing compared to what Trump could be for this country: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201... “How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination”—Philip’s mother I also just read The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which posits a ridiculous clownish, crude and rude Hitler-like gangster rising to power in Chicago, ready to take over the country. It can’t really happen here, can it?! I’m just paranoid, right?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jace

    I don't usually do this, but I'm halfway through this book and I want to write a review of my progress so far. For a couple of reasons: 1. The thought has crossed my mind a couple times in the first 200 pages to put the book down. If I don't finish it, I'll probably never write a full review. 2. As I near the midsection of the book, it becomes clearer that things might be about to turn upside down. If so, by the time I finish it I probably will have erased from memory everything I'm th I don't usually do this, but I'm halfway through this book and I want to write a review of my progress so far. For a couple of reasons: 1. The thought has crossed my mind a couple times in the first 200 pages to put the book down. If I don't finish it, I'll probably never write a full review. 2. As I near the midsection of the book, it becomes clearer that things might be about to turn upside down. If so, by the time I finish it I probably will have erased from memory everything I'm thinking about this book now. Anyway, this book is nothing like I thought it would be. With the title of The Plot Against America and a giant swastika on the cover, I expected it to be some sort of post-apocalyptic political thriller. Especially after just finishing, The Handmaid's Tale, I had high hopes. Well, it turns out to not be so much about Charles Lindbergh's fascist takeover of the USA. Instead it's a [fabricated:] autobiography of Philip Roth, then a 9-year-old Jewish boy growing up in Newark, set in an America where Republican Lindbergh defeated FDR in the 1940 election. Lindbergh is an anti-semite who, instead of entering World War II, signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Hitler's Germany--which would lead the reader to believe something ominous is in the works. But for 200 pages, it's just a droll account of Roth's childhood. The most excitement so far is Roth's older cousin who joins up with the Canadian military only to lose a leg fighting in France. One sinister thing the Lindbergh administration has done is introduce the Office of American Absorption [OAA:], which sounds like it belongs in the alphabet soup of FDR's New Deal. Though benign on its face, the OAA seeks to assimilate "minority" [i.e., Jewish:] youth into rural American life, thus driving a wedge between them and their parents. Roth's brother Sandy spent a summer in Kentucky with a pro-Lindbergh family and now he's back home in Newark and moody. It's not exactly Hitler Jugend, but it's what passes for drama in this book. That's my report so far. We'll see what the final 200 pages hold. ------------------------------------ Well, I finished the book. I don't really have the time or the inclination to give any more of an in-depth review, so I'll just say this. The rise AND the defeat of a fascist American government happened in all of EIGHT (8) pages. The entire escapade was condensed into a short newsreel blurb. It turns out that Roth is supposed to be one of the greatest living writers of our age, but I didn't see it. This book was a literary cock-tease. The emotional tension built up by the Lindbergh administration's machinations was betrayed by a fizzling, easily forgettable climax.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    How can this be happening in America? How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn't see it with my own eyes, I'd think I was having a hallucination. There's a plot afoot all right, and I'll gladly name the forces propelling it - hysteria, ignorance, malice, stupidity, hatred, and fear. What a repugnant spectacle our country has become! Falsehood, cruelty, and madness everywhere, and brute force in the wings waiting to finish us off.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Whitaker

    One star??!!!?? Really???!!! I gotta be kidding right? Either that or I’m on some kind of crazy drug trip. Well, no. I really “did not like” this book. Hence, the single solitary star. I hate it when mainstream novelists try their hand at science fiction. They usually muck it up. This is not too surprising given the disregard most of them have for science fiction in the first place. It’s even worse when the science-fiction novel in question is a thinly disguised political rant because the politi One star??!!!?? Really???!!! I gotta be kidding right? Either that or I’m on some kind of crazy drug trip. Well, no. I really “did not like” this book. Hence, the single solitary star. I hate it when mainstream novelists try their hand at science fiction. They usually muck it up. This is not too surprising given the disregard most of them have for science fiction in the first place. It’s even worse when the science-fiction novel in question is a thinly disguised political rant because the politics overwhelms everything else. Paul Theroux had that problem with O-Zone. Philip Roth has that problem with The Plot Against America. This alternate history written during the presidency of Bush bis is clearly an attack against the Republican party and its supporters. Notwithstanding my personal inclinations towards such a viewpoint, I found the book deeply dislikeable. The novel depicts an America in which a President Charles Lindberg, Republican, signs a peace treaty with Germany, Italy, and Japan, having won the election on the promise of peace. Both houses of Congress are also delivered into the hands of the Republican party by crushing majorities. The movement to war is derided as a product of a Jewish conspiracy, and programmes to integrate American Jews into the American community are launched. Given what we know of World War II, we are clearly intended to suspect that such programmes are little more than thin disguises for a later Jewish pogrom. With President Lindberg at the helm, in the space of two years, virulent anti-Semitism spreads and American undergoes its own kristallnacht. Democracy is replaced by fascism almost overnight. As an alternate history, I found this to be pure bunkum: poorly put together and thought through. Even more damning is that it is depicted in a manner that I found entirely unconvincing. Now, I am quite ready to believe that no country, with absolutely no exceptions, is immune from embracing totalitarianism. That was not why I found the novel unconvincing. I found it unconvincing because Roth never takes the trouble to show us how the America in his novel comes to embrace fascism. In his America, large majorities of the American citizenry are apparently in hearty support of this course. The only reason Roth gives for their adulatory approval of this trajectory is their desire not to be drawn into war. All events are seen from the perspective of the narrator, an alternate world Philip Roth, aged nine, living with his family in a tight-knit Jewish community more or less isolated by choice from the rest of white America. From this perspective, we are only allowed to see how the programmes initiated by President Lindberg—apparently with the full support of the WASP-majority, the black minority, and the wealthy Jewish community—impact their lives and shatter the young Roth’s hitherto happy and comfortable childhood. As I remarked, I do not believe that any society has some kind of natural anti-body against totalitarianism. However, I do believe that such ideas first require fertile ground in which to grow. A prosperous, peaceful nation is not the kind of ground that is ordinarily readily receptive to such ideas. In the novel, at the time of Lindberg’s rise, FDR’s two mandates have brought America to just such a situation. We are meant to accept that despite his success, the public would heartily reject his candidacy in favour of Lindberg’s simply because they idolize the handsome blond aviator and because they fear war. Even then, I might have been prepared to accept this turn of events if we had been shown how the ordinary American’s thinking changes over the course of Lindberg’s presidency. But we never see this. We are never shown anyone else’s viewpoint other than the narrow view of Roth’s nine-year old protagonist. This choice of perspective is severely limiting not only because of the nine-year old child’s limited understanding of events but because it is a viewpoint confined to that of a working class family living in a wholly Jewish community. Except for a handful of token gentiles who make the occasional walk-on appearance, we are given no other view on events. As a result, we are given no access to the kind of mind set that might be won over by Lindberg’s fascist anti-Semitism or that might gradually come to embrace it. We are instead presented with a fait accompli which seems to assume the complicit acceptance of a reader already convinced that a relatively prosperous and peaceful democratic America is inherently capable of overthrowing its founding principles in the space of less than two years for no reason other than a desire to avoid war with Hitler. No extended period of deprivation and suffering necessitates the search for a convenient scapegoat; no chaos and breakdown of government legitimacy is needed for people to turn to the illusory certainty afforded by totalitarianism; no seething long-standing community resentment barely held in check by a civil government is needed for hatreds to explode. No, apparently, the hatred of Jews is strong in the gentile. They fear and despise Jews so much that the vast majority would eagerly blind themselves to the loss of their own freedoms to see the hated kike die. Seriously, Roth? I can see how a fringe minority of the population might be like this. But it generally takes much deeper periods of humiliation and suffering and far harsher shocks to mobilise the majority of a population to such hate. Without showing us this process at work, all we have really is an anti-gentile novel. Ironic, really, given the novel’s ostensible anti-intolerance message.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I gave this book 4 stars. I probably would have given it 5 had it not gotten a bit weak towards the end and the author seemed to lose focus of where his story was going. It seemed like he wanted it to end whereas I wanted it to continue on. First off let me say this book is NOT what most of these reviewers are calling it. It is far too complex to be thrown into a category of "what-if" histories. The first thing that came to mind when I read it was that is was a memoir. In fact it reminded me a l I gave this book 4 stars. I probably would have given it 5 had it not gotten a bit weak towards the end and the author seemed to lose focus of where his story was going. It seemed like he wanted it to end whereas I wanted it to continue on. First off let me say this book is NOT what most of these reviewers are calling it. It is far too complex to be thrown into a category of "what-if" histories. The first thing that came to mind when I read it was that is was a memoir. In fact it reminded me a lot of Frank McCourt's work, but only much better. That is not to say that there is not a "what-if" angle to the book. That is obvious. And kind of like Harry Turtldove's books, Roth is not dealing too much with the actual history and consequences of the twist of events. He is dealing with the actual people--notably his own family and only throwing in the historical figures as they played a role in their everyday lives. Once I acknowledged that this was a very unique memoir, I read it as such. Yes I understand the author has "A Novel" posted on the cover. But it is written as a memoir and should be read in that way. You do not read biographies like you do novels, nor the Bible like you would The Odyssey. Same goes here. It is a novel because it is fiction, but Roth is a brilliant writer that can present it as a memoir detailing a specific moment in his life, but presenting it now in a way that expresses the extreme fear that bubbled within the Jewish communities of the East Coast. And he succeeds. America has forgotten in our collected back-patting and our victories in saving the world from the Nazis that we had some of the very same anti-Semetic sentiments in our own country. We quickly criticize drunken-rages by famous actors but forget that our own heros of American history held these views soberly (Limbergh and Henry Ford). And it is because of these underlying views that Roth seeks to throw a mirror up to ourselves and question how close we came to having our own (Final) "American Solution." The only thing that kept this from being 5 stars was the weakening of an exposition of "events" towards the end. It did help give background but I thought someone with Roth's writing talent and given the incredible journey he had already taken me on, he could have filled in the "historical gaps" better. And the twist of an ending, though hardly a happy one, was very unexpected and forced me to charge through the last 100 or so pages staying up late at night to do so. Read this book with an open mind and with a mind on our own dark history in mind.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    I have loved every Philip Roth novel I’ve read so far: he has a way of punching me in the guts with his words, of creating such vividly real characters and putting me right in their shoes… I hesitated picking this one up because current events echo the story a little too much for my taste, but I was morbidly curious to see how Roth had imagined a fascist America. That being said, I wish I had read it a couple of years ago, because reading “The Plot Against America” right now makes it impossible I have loved every Philip Roth novel I’ve read so far: he has a way of punching me in the guts with his words, of creating such vividly real characters and putting me right in their shoes… I hesitated picking this one up because current events echo the story a little too much for my taste, but I was morbidly curious to see how Roth had imagined a fascist America. That being said, I wish I had read it a couple of years ago, because reading “The Plot Against America” right now makes it impossible to separate the story on the page from the current American political situation. The parallels between Trump and Lindbergh are chilling; from the isolationist slogans to the friendship with avowed violators of human rights, by way of complicit approval of white supremacists… It can get upsetting, even for a Canadian looking at the American train wreck from the outside, even when you tell yourself “it’s a book, it’s fiction”… Earlier this year, I read another work of alternate-historical fiction that involved a very different WWII, but “The Plot Against America” is not really like “The Man in the High Castle” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), which worked really well as a novel of ideas but did not flesh out any of its characters. Here, we see the nosedive of America into fascism through the eyes of someone directly impacted by this wind of change in so many ways. Roth weaved himself in this story, as he tries to imagine how his family would have reacted to the changing climate – from his father’s outrage, his brother’s strange but fascinating defection and his cousin’s urge to do something, even if that “something” turns out ill-advised, with tragic consequences. The way he describes the stunned disbelief, the paranoia, the feeling of surreal helplessness experienced by his loved ones is painfully vivid and familiar. There’s something about watching the news these days that make books like this one much more frightening than they must have been when they were first published. Too bad I didn’t get my hands on this years ago, I would have probably enjoyed it more. 4 stars, because it is beautifully written and heart-wrenching – but reading it now also makes it very depressing…

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Once again, Philip Roth has published a novel that you must read - now. It's not that an appreciation of his book depends on the political climate; our appreciation of the political climate depends on his book. During a bitterly contested election in a time of war against an amorphous enemy, "The Plot Against America" inspires exactly the kind of discussion we need. With a seamless blend of autobiography, history, and speculation, Roth imagines that Charles Lindbergh ran against Frank Once again, Philip Roth has published a novel that you must read - now. It's not that an appreciation of his book depends on the political climate; our appreciation of the political climate depends on his book. During a bitterly contested election in a time of war against an amorphous enemy, "The Plot Against America" inspires exactly the kind of discussion we need. With a seamless blend of autobiography, history, and speculation, Roth imagines that Charles Lindbergh ran against Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election of 1940. Drawing on Lindbergh's writings and speeches at the time, Roth creates a campaign for the aviation hero centered on his determination to keep America out of Europe's war. While Roosevelt enunciates complex policies in his famous upper-class cadence, Lindbergh buzzes around the country in The Spirit of St. Louis declaring, "Your choice is simple. It's between Lindbergh and war." To preserve the nation, we must resist the propaganda of "the Jewish race," Lindbergh warns, "and their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." After winning by a landslide, he immediately negotiates "understandings" with the Axis, consigning Europe to Germany in exchange for a promise to leave America alone. Political opponents rail against the president for "yielding to his Nazi friends," but everybody knows those nay-sayers are just warmongering Jews. Lindbergh's first domestic initiative is the creation of the Office of American Absorption to "encourage America's religious and national minorities to become further incorporated into the larger society." In practice, this involves sending urban Jewish children to spend the summer on farms in the South - "a Jewish farm hand in the Gentile heartland." Eventually, the program expands to remove whole Jewish families from their city "ghettos" and send them to exciting, new lives in the Midwest. If their culture is dissolved in the process, well, that's OK too. Yes, Lindbergh comes off very bad in these pages. He spouts anti-Semitic canards that sound far more shocking now than in 1938, when he accepted the Nazis' Service Cross of the German Eagle "by order of the Fuhrer." But clearly Roth's real target isn't an anti-Semitic aviation hero who died 30 years ago. It's an electorate he sees as dazzled by attractive faces, moved by simple slogans, and cowed by ominous warnings about threats to our security. The result is a cautionary story in the tradition of "The Handmaid's Tale," a stunning work of political extrapolation about a triumvirate of hate, ignorance, and paranoia that shreds decency and overruns liberty. Roth provides brilliant analysis of political rhetoric: the way demagogues manipulate public opinion and the way responsible journalists inadvertently prop up tyrants in their devotion to objectivity and balance. But what really gives the novel life is its narrator: a little boy named Phil Roth. He lives in Newark with his older brother, who's completely enamored with Charles Lindbergh; his righteous father, who's convinced the new president is an American Hitler; and his long- suffering mother, who struggles to hold her family together as the nation is ripped apart. In a voice that blends the tones of the author's nostalgia with the boy's innocence, Phil describes the national crisis through its effect on his own family. It's a narrative structure fraught with risks, particularly the danger of making this 7-year-old boy look cloying or inappropriately sophisticated, but Roth keeps his bifocal vision in perfect focus. The result is a profound examination of the way children negotiate their parents' ideals and their culture's prejudices along the way to developing not just a political consciousness but a sense of safety in the world. Soon after Lindbergh wins the election, for instance, the Roth family takes a trip to Washington, D.C., to reassure themselves of the stability of American democracy. Phil's father is full of enthusiasm, repeating the guide's patter and pointing to the sights. He also can't resist broadcasting his criticism of the new president. "That's just expressing my opinion," he protests when his wife begs him to be more discreet, but they're jeered at and thrown out of their hotel. Phil feels embarrassed and terrified, but he's also proud to have a father "ruthlessly obedient to the idea of fair play." That conflicted response continues as young Phil struggles to keep his alliances straight in a world of baffling complexity. His brother can't say enough about Lindbergh's wonders. Their father's suspicion seems downright paranoid. When his aunt starts dating the token Jew in Lindbergh's administration, Phil can see firsthand the rich rewards of assimilation and collusion. What, after all, did his cousin gain by joining the Canadians in their fight against the Nazis, except a prosthetic leg? By the novel's climax, the conflict tearing the world apart is violently loose in his own living room. "I was disillusioned," he writes, "by a sense that my family was slipping away from me right along with my country." Victims of anti-Semitism will react in a special way (as will the descendants of Japanese-Americans interned by Roosevelt), but "The Plot Against America" is really a story about the loss of innocence, about that moment when it's no longer possible for "mother and father to set things right and explain away enough of the unknown to make existence appear to be rational." This isn't the wrathful Roth of "The Human Stain" or "I Married a Communist." This narrator is too deeply unsettled to be angry, and frankly that makes him far more unsettling to us. In a surprising final chapter, after he's neatly woven his fictional history back into the historical record we all know, Roth concludes with a small, tragic story of a neighbor whose family is crushed, almost accidentally, by the fury of racial hatred. It's a stunning, deeply disturbing episode for young Phil, and one that leaves us shaken with the narrator's "perpetual fear." http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0928/p1...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    A racist in the White House? Really? A demagogue turning America into a fascist nation? Come on! That’s a little too far fetched, don’t you think? I admit I didn’t know much about Charles Lindbergh except for his flight across the Atlantic, his anti-Semitic attitudes, his three-fold “polygamy”, and the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. What I didn’t know, for instance, was the fact that he was also spokesperson of the first America First Movement and about the public speeches he held in 1940 and 19 A racist in the White House? Really? A demagogue turning America into a fascist nation? Come on! That’s a little too far fetched, don’t you think? I admit I didn’t know much about Charles Lindbergh except for his flight across the Atlantic, his anti-Semitic attitudes, his three-fold “polygamy”, and the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. What I didn’t know, for instance, was the fact that he was also spokesperson of the first America First Movement and about the public speeches he held in 1940 and 1941 in front of large audiences and on the radio, especially the one from September 11 (of all dates) 1941 in Des Moines, IA which is also featured in the book (text and some original audio clips here). In this novel Lindbergh rose to the presidential candidate of the Republicans and won the election against Roosevelt after a landslide in 1940 to become the 33rd President of the United States. His candid anti-Semitism and ingratiation with the Nazis in Germany (he was even awarded an “Order of Merit” by Hermann Göring in 1938) leads to intensified distrust and anxiety among most Jews in America. The story is told from the POV of the seven-year-old Philip Roth and covers the period from June 1940 to October 1942. The Roth family: Philip, his older brother Sandy, the parents Herman and Bess as well as an orphaned nephew Alvin. They live placidly in the Jewish district Weequahic of Newark, NJ. But the peacefulness comes to an end when Lindbergh takes office. Slowly but surely the life of the Roths in the “land of the free” becomes more and more difficult. During a family visit in Washington, shortly after the election, they are abused by passers-by as “loudmouth Jews” and the reservation in their hotel got canceled without justification. Cops are called in but don’t want to help either:“And the problem?” the cop asked. “We’re a family of four, Officer. We drove all the way from New Jersey. You can’t just throw us into the street.” “But,” said the cop, “if somebody else reserves a room—” “But there is nobody else! And if there was, why should we take a back seat to them?” “But the manager returned your deposit. He even packed up your belongings for you.” “Officer, you’re not understanding me. Why should our reservation take a back seat to theirs? I was with my family at the Lincoln Memorial. They have the Gettysburg Address up on the wall. You know what the words are that are written there? ‘All men are created equal.’” “But that doesn’t mean all hotel reservations are created equal.” The policeman’s voice carried to the bystanders at the edge of the lobby; unable any longer to control themselves, some of them laughed aloud.This is a relatively small issue, and the Roths later found another accommodation, but it already shows how the people on the street are beginning to handle Jews from now on, after the new president sets an example by his speeches. The father, an American patriot and ardent admirer of Roosevelt, starts to realize early on how bad the situation will get for Jews in America. This is confirmed by a letter from his employer, an insurance agency, in which Herman Roth and his family is “congratulated for having been chosen to be among the company’s first pioneering ‘homesteaders’ of 1942.” A resettlement plan for Jews, euphemistically called “Homestead 42” and referring to the orginal Homestead Act of 1862, is already under way. Little by little Jews are loosing more and more of their freedoms; the cival contract, as far as the Jews are concerned, is unilaterally broken by the government. There is resistance, however, most prominently by Walter Winchell a famous and powerful Jewish journalist and radio commentator (who coined words like “razis” and “swastinkers”). But even Winchell cannot really hinder the avalanche that is about to crush the Jews. What I found most depressing (and was therefore the strongest part of this book for me) is how under the fascist government the Jewish families are beginning to fall apart. In this case it’s the older brother Sandy becomes estranged from his family after joining “Just Folks”, another invention of the newly created “Office of American Absorption”), a “volunteer work program introducing city youth to the traditional ways of heartland life”. Sandy comes to blows with his father when he suddenly starts to speak of Jews as “you people” to which his father replies: “I told you already about the dirty words, and now I’m telling you about this ‘you people’ business. ‘You people’ one more time, son, and I am going to ask you to leave the house. If you want to go live in Kentucky instead of here, I’ll drive you down to Penn Station and you can catch the next train out. Because I know very well what ‘you people’ means. And so do you. So does everyone. Don’t you use those two words in this house ever again.”The conflict in the family escalates further when Sandy is invited as a representative of “Just Folks” to the White House, where Lindbergh is holding a banquet to which he invited Nazi German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. All this and much more is experienced by the young Philip Roth and has to be processed somehow. That this is not easy for a child is self-evident: nightmares, false feelings of guilt, ghosts of the dead in the cellar, running from the parents’ house are the consequences. On the whole I liked this novel quite a bit. The subtle changes (read deteriorations) in the life of the Jews are skilfully depicted. One can see the growing concern, can understand it, is frightened and angry at the helplessness of the individual against a repressive state apparatus. In this way, the author has achieved his goal. However, I find the text as a whole too long and in parts too bumpy. It was actually getting on my nerves sometimes. For instance, the fact that a table got broken during a fight in the Roth apartment is described like this: The glass-topped coffee table with the dark mahogany frame that my mother had saved over the years to buy at Bam’s (and where, at the conclusion of a pleasant hour of evening reading, she would set down, with its ribboned bookmark in place, the new novel by Pearl Buck or Fannie Hurst or Edna Ferber borrowed from the local pharmacy’s tiny rental library) lay in fragments all across the room […] All these little details (in the context of a fight) are completely unnecessary and reading this and other passages like this felt like I was driving my car in the wrong gear. The other problem I have with the book, I have to attribute to myself. I have to admit ot myself that the genre “alternative history” is obviously not my cup of tea. Some historical “facts” from the book are obviously true, others are false. My knowledge of American history is not sufficient in this case to be able to assess everything that is said at once, and to separate facts from “alt-facts”. At some point I gave up to find out about the differences on Google. In a fictional novel the author obviously doesn’t falsify history. Nevertheless, some “facts” (whether true or false) may remain, which are unconsciously deposited in the wrong drawer, and that’s a pity. I would still like to recommend this book simply because it is now more relevant than ever. It seems to me that many people think fascistic governments like the one depicted here come over night, like a lightning from the sky or some other natural disaster, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s not true. Even fascists need time to deploy their evil goals. There’s always the chance to throw a wrench in their works, in other word: To resist. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Reese

    I used to argue (in the 1960s) with Grandma Flo, who fiercely insisted that what has repeatedly happened in this world will certainly happen again; in this regard, America is not exceptional. According to Grandma, America -- despite its checks-and-balances system, despite its Bill of Rights -- would become a nation in which people will consume lies like cookies and embrace the "stuff of our nightmares." To a twelve-year-old who had never lived under a sky darkened by the ashes of Jews, Grandma F I used to argue (in the 1960s) with Grandma Flo, who fiercely insisted that what has repeatedly happened in this world will certainly happen again; in this regard, America is not exceptional. According to Grandma, America -- despite its checks-and-balances system, despite its Bill of Rights -- would become a nation in which people will consume lies like cookies and embrace the "stuff of our nightmares." To a twelve-year-old who had never lived under a sky darkened by the ashes of Jews, Grandma Flo's predictions seemed preposterous. Since Donald Trump's ascent, however, no imagination is required to see that, yes, even in America, democratic institutions may be extinguished by folks who fear and hate whoever is "not one of us" and whoever is believed to have taken what was theirs. Thirteen years before THE Donald became President of the US, Philip Roth, in The Plot Against America, imagined Charles Lindbergh in the White House -- the Lindbergh (aviator-hero) who wrote in a 1939 journal entry that we must "guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races. . . and the infiltration of inferior blood"(quoted in Roth 370). Reading Roth's chilling and unsettling and touching and brilliant work, especially in 2017, heightens one's awareness of the truth that what "can't happen here" can actually happen here. Like the boy narrator-protagonist (named Philip Roth) of The Plot Against America, millions of people now "under[stand]. . . how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others"(213). Without having given up all hope that an ace in the hole will trump the queen of heartlessness, the jackshit, and the wild cards in the deck, I still wish that I could tell my grandma that she was wise and I was naive.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Roth imagines a world where Lindbergh became President in 1940 and then proceded to collaborate with the Nazis. He says this has nothing to do with George Bush, but I found it impossible not think of parallels. Like all late Roth, very nicely written.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) So after a month of election obsession here in Chicago, I find my schedule of book reviews in complete chaos: nearly 20 titles read now, all of them awaiting essays, and with me still continuing to read new books on a daily basis. I thought I'd start this week, then, with a whole series o (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) So after a month of election obsession here in Chicago, I find my schedule of book reviews in complete chaos: nearly 20 titles read now, all of them awaiting essays, and with me still continuing to read new books on a daily basis. I thought I'd start this week, then, with a whole series of recently read books that I don't have that much to say about, either because of being older titles or not very good or whatnot; and I thought I'd start this list as well with the best book out of all of them, American literary treasure Philip Roth's 2004 masterpiece The Plot Against America, which believe it or not is actually the very first book by Roth I've ever read. And man, what a doozy to start out with, because it so perfectly captures the entire zeitgeist of the Bush years, despite the plot being a science-fictiony "alternative history" one; because, see, for those who don't know, what this book posits is a world where Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh becomes President of the US in 1940 instead of Franklin Roosevelt, and instead of going to war actually works out a non-aggression pact with the Axis powers. And then the story itself is told as a personal memoir, with the main character being Roth himself as a small Jewish child in New Jersey "living" through the events. It's a brilliant concept, executed even more successfully precisely because of no melodramatic things taking place; under Roth's genius speculative mind, no Jews are actually rounded up into concentration camps under a Lindbergh administration, but merely a national air of hostility created towards them, a government-approved disdain for Jews that clearly affects the emotional well-being of Roth's tight-knit Jewish community in an industrialized mid-century New Jersey. And that's why this is such a magnificent statement about the Bush administration, a sneaky one that you might not even realize at first -- because Roth's whole point by using this fantastical premise is to show that you don't need out-and-out pogroms in order to create a discriminatory society, that you don't need goose-stepping stormtroopers in the streets in order to have a fascist-friendly nation. It's a fascinating book, one with a delightfully surprising ending, a novel that really floored me when I read it a few weeks ago; in fact, about the only complaint I have is that large sections of it are overwritten, and that Roth has a habit of delving into the minutiae of certain scenes in simply too much detail. Other than that, though, it comes highly recommended, and I believe is destined in the future (along with such titles as Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Max Brooks' World War Z ) to be one of the essential titles of the early 2000s, one of the books that will help explain to future generations just what it was like to live under the Bush regime. Needless to say, I am now eagerly looking forward to tackling more of this remarkable writer's ouevre.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Opening: FEAR PRESIDES over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews. When the first shock came in June 1940 - the nomination for the presi Description: When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Opening: FEAR PRESIDES over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews. When the first shock came in June 1940 - the nomination for the presidency of Charles A. Lindbergh, America's international aviation hero, by the Republican Convention at Philadelphia - my father was thirty-nine, an insurance agent with a grade school education, earning a little under fifty dollars a week, enough for the basic bills to be paid on time but for little more. Hah! Thought I had already encountered this one, however, it turns out that in the past, my dear person had recounted the story with shuddering, fervent gusto. The above opening sets comparisons to the America that is today: few 'ordinary Joes' making more dosh over that which a hand-to-mouth existence requires, religious persecution in place, and an unsuitable, untrained celebrity Republican president issuing edicts and damnations contrary to the basic needs of humankind, whilst pandering to mammon, reveling in corruption and one-upmanship.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. This was a difficult book to read. Not because the writing was poor or obtuse, but because the subject matter was so sensitive. It also didn't help that there are more than a few unsettling parallels between the events in this book and what is currently unfolding on the American political landscape. So the premise of the book is pretty straight forward: Charles Lindbergh, notorious racist/anti-Semite, Nazi sympathizer, and nat When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. This was a difficult book to read. Not because the writing was poor or obtuse, but because the subject matter was so sensitive. It also didn't help that there are more than a few unsettling parallels between the events in this book and what is currently unfolding on the American political landscape. So the premise of the book is pretty straight forward: Charles Lindbergh, notorious racist/anti-Semite, Nazi sympathizer, and national hero (not necessarily in that order), ends up running against FDR in the 1940 election on the platform of keeping America out of WWII at all costs. Thanks to his dashing good looks, dynamic campaign, and a strong anti-war sentiment he wins a resounding landslide victory and history takes a different course. Right off the bat the election was eerily familiar to someone who lived through the 2016 American Presidential Election: a well known but extremely unqualified candidate running on a few simple issues and tacitly blaming a minority group for problems ends up winning over a much more experienced and qualified candidate who would have continued positive American engagement on the world stage instead of turning to isolationism. The fact that the people in the book would taken in by Lindbergh's act was scary since so many of my fellow citizen fell for the same thing in 2016. Of course it is just as scary that Roth had to do little to bring historic Lindbergh into line with the one he needed for the story: (Lindbergh speaking at an anti-interventionist America First Committee rally in fall of 1940): It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution the Jewish race suffered in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy, both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation. A few farsighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government. Pretty easy to see why the Nazis pinned a medal on him and he refused to disown it when he returned stateside. Needless to say things did not get better once he took office. And while I would like to shake my head at the American populace in the book, it isn't as though candidate Trump said things that were any worse than that, be it about Mexicans or Muslims Trump inflamed American fear of The Other just as much as Lindbergh scapegoated Jews. Considering the subsequent policies the Lindbergh administration enacted (and what is currently brewing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill) my near term political outlook for America is not good. And that was only Chapter One. The story itself is told in sort of a weird way. It is from the perspective of Philip Roth (a character, not the author obviously) looking back on his experience of these events as a nine and ten year old child. So writing is from a much more mature perspective even if the feelings and understandings of the character at the time are from a child's point of view. In a way this decision both worked and did not work. On the one hand we don't get much of a wider view of this alternative world, just what young Philip gleans from his family, the radio, and his friends/neighbors. We get slices of the wider world but no comprehensive overview of everything that has changed. If you want to know how the African American community is faring during this time or what the British think of America's isolationism you are out of luck. The story is very much about what happens to Philip and his family during this turbulent time. And it that way I think the perspective decision succeeds in painting the impacts of an anti-Semitic fascist government and society on a Jewish family. The characters are quite dynamic, changing considerably the course of the story in reaction to the events of the book, both grand and mundane. Over the course of the book we see how the growing antagonism towards Jews (both on the governmental and social level) puts a strain on what was the very epitome of a family trying to realize the American dream. Instead of being acknowledged and respected as a part of the diverse tapestry that is America and encouraged to succeed in business Jews are singled out for a sort of forced assimilation and dissolution of their communities. It starts small, but most pernicious things do, especially when the ultimate goal of that pernicious thing is so abhorrent to the general character of the country. Incremental steps slowly lower the populace's expectation of just what normal is until people can look at terrible injustices and not bat and eye at them. It isn't some far out sci-fi dystopia, it CAN absolutely happen here. Sufficed to say the book was rather frightening both in its events and in the implications of contemporary America. Nothing Roth projects in the book are too out of the norm for modern America and that is damn terrifying considering how the events of the book unfold. As much as I found the book to be excellent, I did have a pretty big problem with how Roth decided to end it. (view spoiler)[It wasn't so much the nature of the ending but how Roth ordered it. We are presented with a collection of newsreel revelations of how Lindbergh disappeared, the VP takes over, Lindbergh's wife is committed to a mental hospital, the acting president turns the Fascist meter up to 11, and then the wife escapes and condemns the VP for leading a coup. Lots of chaos, VP is exposed as being a usurper and coup leader, new elections are called, FDR and Democrats sweep into power and world history is rights. THEN we get the final bit of the Roth family's story. But by that point I was already really relieved. Even if some great tragedy does befall the Roth family (which I hoped it wouldn't) America, as a whole, would be on the road to recovery. Yes there was still SOME tension about their ultimate fate, but it was mitigated by the national events turning out alright. I think if Roth had reversed this ordering where the reader did not known how America would turn out coupled with the Roth family still in danger the ending would have been much more compelling or at least would have had a more consistent line of tension running through it. Since even if the Roth family avoided disaster this time America could still have backslid into totalitarianism. The great tension would have still existed for the last few pages with this ordering instead of mostly being relieved with the ordering Roth went with. Really just a personal preference but it did somewhat diminish the ending for me. (hide spoiler)] All in all a very well written and thought out book, even if it was chilling and unsettling given contemporary political happenings.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    Published in 2004, this novel is an invented history of America: Nazi-sympathizer and renowned pilot Charles Lindbergh is elected President of the United States. He espouses isolationism, but has made agreements with Hitler’s supporters to stay out of the war and simultaneously relocate and assimilate Jews in America through something called the Office of American Absorption. The program is so well-orchestrated that it is espoused as a wonderful thing by many Jews, but in the “Jewish ghetto” of Published in 2004, this novel is an invented history of America: Nazi-sympathizer and renowned pilot Charles Lindbergh is elected President of the United States. He espouses isolationism, but has made agreements with Hitler’s supporters to stay out of the war and simultaneously relocate and assimilate Jews in America through something called the Office of American Absorption. The program is so well-orchestrated that it is espoused as a wonderful thing by many Jews, but in the “Jewish ghetto” of Newark there are some holdouts. Roth speaks in the first person, using his own family’s real names, in this alternate history, and it is chilling. What’s chilling is how easily lies become truth because enough people derive importance by having their social status raised by coming onboard with those in power. And when famous journalist Walter Winchell, leader among the holdouts, gets dumped from his radio program, in a last ditch effort to speak truth, he writes what turns out to become a much-reviled final newspaper column: “The Lindbergh fascists . . . have openly begun their Nazi assault to freedom of expression. Today Winchell’s the enemy to be silenced . . . Winchell ‘the warmonger,’ ‘the liar,’ ‘the alarmist,’ ‘the Commie,’ ‘the kike.’ Today yours truly, tomorrow every newscaster and reporter who dares to tell the truth about the fascist plot to destroy American democracy. Honorary Aryans like the rabid rabbi Lyin’ Lionel B. and the snooty Park Avenue proprietors of the gutless New York Times aren’t the first ultracivilized Jewish Quislings to grovel before an anti-Semitic master because they’re just too, too refined to fight like Winchell . . . and they won’t be the last. The jerks at Jergens [the radio sponsor that fired Winchell] aren’t the first corporate cowards to play ball with the dictatorial lying machine that is now ruining this country . . . and they won’t be the last. (242) Things deteriorate, Americans are fighting each other, and New York City’s Mayor La Guardia decries the gossip and innuendo that have become truth: “To have enslaved America with this hocus-pocus! To have captured the mind of the world’s greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth! Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth!” (316) A timely story. An exhausting, not-particularly-fun-to-read book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Coming soon...must first nurse hangover...having trouble with simple sentences at the moment... Okay, here goes. This is going to be worded poorly because I killed a lot of braincells last night, but I need to get this out of my system. I enjoyed this novel. I really, really did. To be more specific, I enjoyed it in the way you enjoy a movie-version of a book you've already read, or a cutesy little romance like The Princess Bride (no disrespect). I mean, you just KNOW where it's going. Des Coming soon...must first nurse hangover...having trouble with simple sentences at the moment... Okay, here goes. This is going to be worded poorly because I killed a lot of braincells last night, but I need to get this out of my system. I enjoyed this novel. I really, really did. To be more specific, I enjoyed it in the way you enjoy a movie-version of a book you've already read, or a cutesy little romance like The Princess Bride (no disrespect). I mean, you just KNOW where it's going. Describing The Plot Against America sort of sounds like the beginning of a bad joke..."what do you get when you take FDR, and swap him out with Charles Lindbergh...I think it would go a little something like this...(insert 400-page punchline)." Since the scenario that he lays out is slightly feasible and extremely specific (Nazi-friendly US government...how many possibilities are there, really?), the results are about what you would expect. Further, Roth's attempt at making us question whether the family is just being paranoid or not is sort of a fail. Seriously, we know that this is a nightmarish scenario, and if the Jewish folk of Newark think that they are getting fucked by their government, then I, the humble reader, am going to safely assume that they ARE getting fucked by their government. All the same, this novel is a nice little history lesson and a somber warning against extreme isolationism, among other things. It made me question my thoughts on war (anti) and get really confused by and about them (What about concentration camps? Tibet? Female infibulation and vaginal slicing? Civil liberties being brazenly shat upon? Do we war then? When do we war, AAARRGH??!??!?). And I like it when a book can piss me off like that. Roth is also great at building flawed characters who are convincing even as they are changing over time. For example, you get a little uncomfortable when the pompous teen starts running his mouth about politics to his parents at the dinner table, because you remember being the pompous teen running your mouth about politics at the dinner table. Then there's the love-crazy phase, the part where you think your parents know everything, the part where you think your parents know nothing, etc. It's all here, and it's believable. For that (and many other things about this novel), I applaud you, Mr Roth. Sorry to nitpick. I am torn between a 3 and 4 star rating. I almost want to give it a 4 just to bump up my average rating so I don't look like such a damn HATER. Buuuuuuut, I'm going with the 3 anyway. I recommend it, it's good, you will read it quickly, but don't expect your life to change dramatically. 3 stars, BOOM.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Ah Mr Roth, how you entertained and confounded me with this book. This book also served as a sort of stupidity graph for me, highlighting where my knowledge of early 20th century American History and Politics has a gaping hole. Is it a hole in a sock sized hole? An oops, my-car-was-just- swallowed-up-by-this-big-hole sized hole? Or a Guatemala City sink hole sized hole? Well, the hole in my knowledge is probably about the size of the car swallowing hole which is still quite sizeable. I feel asha Ah Mr Roth, how you entertained and confounded me with this book. This book also served as a sort of stupidity graph for me, highlighting where my knowledge of early 20th century American History and Politics has a gaping hole. Is it a hole in a sock sized hole? An oops, my-car-was-just- swallowed-up-by-this-big-hole sized hole? Or a Guatemala City sink hole sized hole? Well, the hole in my knowledge is probably about the size of the car swallowing hole which is still quite sizeable. I feel ashamed (ashamed face). To counter that shame there is also the caveat that I am easily confused. Being brought up in the UK and at the mercy of the comprehensive school education system, we had the facts of World War I and World War II hammered into us from the ages of 13 to 16 but generally only focusing on the European perceptions and involvement, as you might expect. America did feature in the lessons and lectures - the depression, seers roebuck, the wall street crash, Warren Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Roosevelt all got a look-in but probably not in the detailed way that they should have. Between the ages of 16 and 18 it was optional if you wished the hammering of history to continue. I can probably name every treaty and anschluss and every palace that every treaty was signed in. Obviously very helpful factoids which I have used many times over in my adult life.... Therefore, because of the hazy mist that surrounds my knowledge of this period in America I found myself checking on the internet to figure out where fact met fiction in this brilliant book. The Plot Against America depicts growing feelings of anti-Semitism in the USA which began to develop in tandem with the increase in Nazi Power in Europe. Similar anti Semitic feelings and issues are dealt with in a different way in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Roth presents us with an America where Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been beaten in the electoral race by Charles Lindbergh, thereby creating a "what if this happened and where would we be now" look at an alternative history. Note: This book will not confuse you at all if you know your actual history/ are American/ live in America/ Are over the age of 65! I have enjoyed all the Philip Roth books I've read (introduced to him through the joys of the 1001 books to read before you die list)and this one was no exception. To the people who say that American Pastoral is his best book (with all that glove making - really?), I have to disagree!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Plausibility is a difficult thing to assess when taking about alternative history - after all, those events did in fact, not happen, and are therefore in a manner of speaking, impossible. But in general, Roth prods history with a very light touch, building on real people and events, and working within the constraints of the American political system, its vulnerability to the caprice of shifting public opinion, as well its checks and balances, which afford the system its capacity to correct itsel Plausibility is a difficult thing to assess when taking about alternative history - after all, those events did in fact, not happen, and are therefore in a manner of speaking, impossible. But in general, Roth prods history with a very light touch, building on real people and events, and working within the constraints of the American political system, its vulnerability to the caprice of shifting public opinion, as well its checks and balances, which afford the system its capacity to correct itself in the long term. This realism is both a positive feature, and a disappointing one, since a more drastic departure from actual events would have made for more compelling reading. In the execution, there are three things I felt were identified and portrayed very astutely – all of which remain relevant in modern political discourse: i) When a real threat to freedom and equality arises in a democracy, it is extremely difficult for the people to identify it as such. How can a genuine threat be distinguished from the usual cries of “wolf” emanating from the extremes? Do one or two steps down the wrong path imply that the nation will slide all the way? When is it time to trust the system, and when is it time to resist? ii) In such a climate propaganda and disinformation are extremely effective, not in directly swaying the opinion of the majority, but in convincing just enough of the minority to confuse the matter, and to provide a resistance against organisation of a counter-movement. People who are unable to settle upon a view of how things stand are likely to be disengaged, passive, and to let things take their course. iii) Even without a widespread change of public opinion, when fringe opinions are endorsed at a high level, they become normalised, and their expression can rise in prominence in the actions of the public at large, by people in whom these opinions were already latent. The example here is the endorsement by the President of anti-Semitism (here, even in a coded or restrained manner), which results in noticeable changes in the way the family is treated in its daily life, even before there is any change in law or policy. The failing of the novel is really in its main narrative, which focuses on the experience of the author himself and his family, placed inside this alternative America. Though this is an interesting approach and the story is well told, it’s too detailed in its personal scope, and not particularly interesting or original in itself. At times it seems to neither rely on or to benefit from the novel’s alternative history - an example being the crippling of Philip’s uncle Alvin in battle, which features heavily in the story and which could just as likely have occurred in actual history, with mostly the same consequences. There are really two stories being told here: one of America, and one of the Roth family, and the author has unfortunately chosen to focus on the lesser of the two.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Even though this alternate version of American history, written in 2003, is fiction, it eerily mirrors our situation of 2017, down to a foreign government having a say in who is America's president. What was not fiction, however, was what Philip Roth wrote in the postscript to his book. There I learned where the term "America First" came from: "...America First Committee founded at Yale Law School to oppose FDR's policies and promote American isolationism", I also learned how right wing Lindberg Even though this alternate version of American history, written in 2003, is fiction, it eerily mirrors our situation of 2017, down to a foreign government having a say in who is America's president. What was not fiction, however, was what Philip Roth wrote in the postscript to his book. There I learned where the term "America First" came from: "...America First Committee founded at Yale Law School to oppose FDR's policies and promote American isolationism", I also learned how right wing Lindbergh was when he addressed 3,000 at Yale, advocating that America recognize "the new powers in Europe", i.e. Nazis. And also his wife who published her third book subtitled "A Confession of Faith" which immediately became the top nonfiction bestseller, despite it being coined as " the Bible of every American Nazi" And last but not least : Henry Ford, who said, "I know who caused the war. The German-Jewish banker. I have the evidence here. Facts." FACTS!!!! This person who knew his "facts" also said, "I don't like to read books, they muss up my mind. History is more or less bunk".

  30. 5 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    Enough has been written about this book and there is little need to rehash the plot. But I think most of the negative reviews are way off the mark. This is a gripping novel about civil courage, the fallibility of public opinion, and selfish vs. selfless motives. The type of anti-Semitism described in the book are, to me, a metaphor for the creeping legitimacy of racism and intolerance that are pervading the U.S. today. This is a "What if?" novel that seems plausible. The resignation t Enough has been written about this book and there is little need to rehash the plot. But I think most of the negative reviews are way off the mark. This is a gripping novel about civil courage, the fallibility of public opinion, and selfish vs. selfless motives. The type of anti-Semitism described in the book are, to me, a metaphor for the creeping legitimacy of racism and intolerance that are pervading the U.S. today. This is a "What if?" novel that seems plausible. The resignation that many Jews felt under the fictitious Lindbergh regime was, as Roth so perfectly writes, that "they'd found no alternative but to accept that the guarantees of citizenship no longer fully extended to them..." For me that quote sums up the tragedy of so many who live amongst people who declare that this is the best, most free nation in the world. Too many Americans understand what Roth conveys in this story, these deeply held views don't stand up to the reality of their everyday lives.

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