Nemesis

I’m trying to avoid talking about the election, fully intending to discuss “Nemesis,” Philip Roth’s latest book. I loved it, but it does have political connotations.

Guess everything does. Rachel Maddow just reported that Sarah Palin is running for prez in 2012. Surprise, surprise.

Fortunately, we got rid of “I am not a witch” Christine O’Donnell, the pseudo t-brain candidate for Joe Biden’s former senate seat in Delaware. I recently read a comparison that cracked me up: The t-partiers make George Bush look like Bertrand Russell. The nightmare of Sarah Palin as president is even more incongruous.

Let’s look at the irrational promise spouted by many Republican representatives and senators-elect. Kentucky’s Rand Paul insists that the new guys will focus on bringing down the deficit, yet they want to continue Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy, which will definitely not reduce the deficit.

There’s sure to be a kerfuffle (my word of the week), you think?

Worse than the arguing and nastiness spewed in the current political climate is the inordinate amount of fear that’s become part of the American psyche.

Even children’s picture books, often elegant displays of beauty that enhance imagination, are being touted to promote hatred.  Take “The Liberal Claus: Socialism on a Sleigh,” aimed to denigrate President Obama. Yeah, this is what children need during the holiday season.

Roth’s “Nemesis,” which takes place during the polio epidemic of 1944, tells the story of 23-year-old playground director Bucky Cantor, a real mensch. By playing summertime baseball he hopes to get the neighborhood boys through a scary time without catching the deadly disease.

Bucky is committed to goodness, to his girlfriend Marcia, and to making a contribution to Weequahic, his New Jersey community. But he has no control over the terror of polio.

Contemplating our horrible election night, I thought of Bucky’s plight. Was he doing right encouraging boys to continue playing baseball? Who knew if they were contracting polio from each other? Might it be better to quarantine themselves at home all summer?

I reread a passage from “Nemesis,” when Marcia’s father, kindly Dr. Steinberg, advises his future son-in-law: “This is America. The less fear the better. Fear unmans us. Fear degrades us. Fostering less fear — that’s your job and mine.”

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2 Responses to Nemesis

  1. Thanks for the recommendation of Roth’s “Nemesis.” Sounds like a book for our times.

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