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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  6,094 ratings  ·  826 reviews
In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community a ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2010)
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American Pastoral by Philip RothThe Human Stain by Philip RothGoodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip RothPortnoy's Complaint by Philip RothSabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
Best Philip Roth Books
9th out of 37 books — 57 voters
Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsSpirit Bound by Richelle MeadDead in the Family by Charlaine HarrisLinger by Maggie StiefvaterClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Can't Wait Books of 2010
354th out of 1,185 books — 10,697 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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if i pie-graphed all the (wasted) hours i've spent arguing on this site, a sizable portion would be wedged out to old man roth. he's one of those guys that really drives people batty (call it a flaw, but i really really love those people who drive other people up the wall): whether he's too ironic, too earnest, too jewish, too american, too classical, too postmodern, too stylized, not stylized enough, too white, too old, too liberal, too conservative, or that he's a misogynist, racist, sexist, s ...more
Krok Zero
There's nobody less salvageable than a ruined good boy.

The gnomic sentence above could have served as the epigraph to Roth's masterpiece American Pastoral, a novel to which this absolutely gorgeous and deeply troubling novelette is, I believe, a terrific B-side. Like Swede Levov in Pastoral, protagonist Bucky Cantor is an upstanding citizen of his mid-20th-century Jewish New Jersey community, athletically gifted and respected by all; and like Swede, Bucky finds himself thrown into the kind of pe
May 16, 2011 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
I read this in a day (it was Sunday). Started at 9 in the morning (weather unseasonably cool); finished on the stroke of midnight. I did stop to eat and breathe and watch a movie, but gulping down a short Roth was very invigorating. This novel has a powerful grip for one so short, like an 80 year old grandmother who just won’t let you go. It’s a tragic story of a polio epidemic in 1944 in Newark, New Jersey and I give it four big stars for its urgency, unusual subject and the fact that Philip Ro ...more
Jan 05, 2011 Caris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This was my goal: read all of Roth’s newer stuff before reading his older stuff. I’ve heard wonderful things about Portnoy’s Complaint and know from first hand experience that some of his more recent novels aren’t that good. Upon completion of this one, I can’t help but think I’ve made a mistake.

This is the story of phys ed teacher in the midst of a polio epidemic. Kids are dropping left and right and, in typical Roth fashion, this leads the young Jewish man to question god. That’s okay. With ex
Roth’s last book and my first Roth’s book. As any of my school teachers could tell you – I have absolutely zero respect for authority, so I approached Philip Roth with exactly as much reverence as I would have for any first time writer in their 20s. Additionally, I find Roth’s rabid fanboys the most annoying demographic ever, so if you are one of them you might want to do yourself a favour and stop reading right here.
Alright, let’s see what this male Joyce Carol Oates has to offer. As a side not
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 26, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012)
My 6th read book by Philip Roth and he is still to disappoint. In fact, next to his The Human Stain (4 stars), this is one of his better novels for me.

This is the story of a 23-y/o Jewish orphan man Eugene "Bucky" Cantor who wants to go to war to defend his country but he is short and with poor eyesight. Instead applies to be the playground officer of the Jewish Weequahic section in Newark. The year was in 1944, eight years before the discovery of polio vaccine. While his friends are either in E
Jason Coleman
Now that the Grecian-tragedy scaffolding of Roth's recent novellas is finally clear (Coetzee lays it out very simply in his NYRB review, and Roth himself now groups these works together as his Nemeses books), I have to say I like the idea in theory. But like all the other books in what has shaped up to be a series, this latest work's strong premise is undone by an ultimately enervated performance. Roth's energy really does seem to be finally flagging. The way the author practically throws the st ...more
Nemesis is set in the Jewish Weequahic section of Newark during a polio epidemic in the summer of 1944. Bucky Cantor is a strong, earnest young man who feels guilty that he is unable to fight in World War II due to poor eyesight. He is spending his summer working as a playground director for a large group of boys. The people of Newark are upset as polio spreads through their city, and they don't know how it is spread or how to cure it. Blame is placed on the Italians, the Jews, dirty stores, and ...more
It is the summer of 1944. While a world war rages across the Atlantic and Pacific, a different war is fought on the home front. In the blistering heat of that summer Polio reappears in Newark, New Jersey. Its origin is unknown. Its effects are horrifying as anxious parents watch their children fall ill overnight.

Bucky Cantor is a college graduate, a phys-ed teacher in charge of a New Jersey playground. Cantor is 4-F because of his poor eyesight. He is ashamed to be seen on the street in civilian
I hadn't read anything by Philip Roth since his 1991 memoir, Patrimony, and so picked up this short novel on an impulse last week, and I'm glad I did.

Nemesis isn't a terribly important part of his oeuvre, but it does tug at the emotions. I started reading it while having lunch alone in a busy restaurant and within the first 40 pages, I found myself getting all teary-eyed and upset until my entrecôte de boeuf arrived and I was able to calm myself with a bit of red-meat mastication.

The talent and
Paula Margulies
I enjoyed the old-fashioned narrative style of this book, which fits the time and the subject matter: a strapping 23-yr-old Jewish man, Bucky Cantor who, passed over for the draft due to poor eyesight, lands a job as a playground director in a Newark suburb during a 1944 polio epidemic. Despite his attempts to protect his young charges, Bucky watches many of them succumb to the disease. He struggles with guilt and questions his religion after his fiance lures him from his playground job to a "sa ...more
Marco Tamborrino
"Dio era un essere onnipotente che riuniva in un'unica entità divina non tre persone, come nel cristianesimo, ma due: uno stronzo depravato e un genio del male".

Il dialogo sulla malvagità di Dio è il tema centrale del romanzo, anche se Roth, fortunatamente, non ha insistito in modo esagerato sulla questione e ha lasciato che si facesse strada nei pensieri del protagonista un poco alla volta. Bucky Cantor vede il Dio ebraico come un essere malvagio e imperfetto, come un criminale, come il respon
Roth non sbaglia un colpo e questo romanzo ne è l'ennesima dimostrazione.
"Nemesi" è un romanzo sui sensi di colpa, sulla colpa di un giovane che si chiede cosa avrebbe potuto fare se... Un se che pone mille domande, un se che porta a chiedersi cosa fare, un se dai mille dubbi.
Lo stile di Roth è, come sempre perfetto. Ogni parola si trova esattamente al posto giusto per lasciare sbigottito il lettore.
Una storia intrisa di malinconia e tristezza che tocca il cuore. Una storia che vale la pena d
An outbreak of polio in the summer of 1944 on a Newark playground just eleven years too soon for the vaccine. A story of how personal choices amid circumstances impact lives.
Estate 1944, in Europa e nel Pacifico imperversa la guerra. A Newark, nel quartiere ebraico di Weequahic, Bucky Cantor, giovane insegnante di ginnastica e animatore del campo giochi del quartiere, si trova ad affrontare l'emergenza di una epidemia di poliomielite, che colpisce i suoi ragazzi uno dopo l'altro, senza che lui possa fare qualcosa per fermare quella carneficina. La paura e la sensazione di impotenza di fronte alla malattia che colpisce, talvolta uccidendo, e più spesso lasciando il c ...more
Jul 04, 2012 rmn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Nemesis is the most un-Rothian of Roth novels. Roth's novels usually turn out of nowhere on some unforeseen twist that manages to completely flip the story around and this usually happens relatively early, is utterly preposterous, and is unbelievably brilliant. And yet in this novel, the twist doesn't happen until near the end, it is completely telegraphed throughout (or at least most of it is), and it is sort of just "eh."

Plus, the majority of the novel is just an in-depth, maudlin, and almost
I had just finished reading a non-fiction, memoir account of a polio victim, and I came across, to my surprise, a fictional book dealing with polio by Philip Roth. I was curious how it would stack up to the recent and other non-fiction books about polio that I'd read. Well, as with much historical-fiction, I feel as if I learned a great deal about the scourge that was polio and its affect on communities. Roth's protagonist, Bucky Cantor, is a 23-year-old college graduate who is a PE teacher and ...more
Saverio Mariani
Philip Roth
Trad. it. Norman Gobetti
Einaudi – Numeri Primi
pp. 183 ; € 13

Ebbene lascia.
Sì, Philip Roth smette di scrivere. È notizia del mese scorso.
L’ultimo romanzo, allora, è questo: Nemesi.
Non certo lascia perché non abbia più idee, oppure perché la penna ha finito l’inchiostro.
Ne sono convinto, e dico ciò perché Nemesi si presenta come un libro importante, che non ha nulla di scontato e che lascia a bocca aperta.
La scrittura d’acciaio di Roth – come la definì un mio amico, che mi sping
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Primo romanzo che leggo di Roth.
L'argomento è un'epidemia di poliomielite che si diffonde tra i ragazzini che frequentano un campo estivo, nel 1944, quando ancora non esisteva il vaccino. Protagonista è un insegnante di Educazione Fisica che rappresenta salute, dinamicità, attenzione educativa, ma le cui vicende personali, anche legate agli eventi contingenti, saranno segnate in maniera indelebile.

Il tema concettuale del libro è, però, il rapporto con il Dio ebreo il cui ruolo è messo in discuss
When I first started this book I wondered, what has come over Roth? Is he going senile? This is so unlike the brooding, complex and intense novels I remember. The story about the developing horror as a polio epidemic sweeps through New Jersey in 1944 should be electrifying, but it's not: it's told in a flat, rather uninspiring way by Bucky Cantor, the athletic hero (who is unfit for war because he is so short-sighted). He agonizes over his role but is strangely lacking in understanding.
Later he
Philip Roth is a masterful writer, but this book was just weird. The first part was a great story about the devastating effect of polio on the Jewish section of Newark, New Jersey in the 1940's. Bucky Cantor, the playground supervisor, who was kept out of the army by his poor sight,feels guilty as he watches young kids get sick and die.

In the middle section, he joins his girlfriend as a swim coach at a camp in the mountains. He spends most of his time feeling guilty for abandoning his charges in
One of the many errors of the committee that selects the Nobel Prize for Literature is that Philip Roth has never won. Is there any American writer who has sustained such a high level of fiction writing for so long? John Updike was perhaps a rival (although not in my opinion), but it is too late for him. Let's hope Roth gets the overdue award before it is too late for him as well. Having recently published a series of important novels on old age and dying, Roth here returns to his meditations on ...more
Dawn quiett
Such a great book. The way, Roth writes about the Newark summer and the unrelenting heat, makes you seem like you are there. I had never realized the horror of the Polio Epidemic or that it had gone on so long. I can't imagine living everyday with fear that your child could possibly contract this horrible disease that could leave him crippled, confined to iron lung or dead. The make matters worse, no one knew how it was spread. He is so good at conveying the fear of that 1940's. It also reminded ...more
When I was in the middle elementary grades in Chicago, about 10 years after the setting of this story, our teacher, Ethel Salk, walked into the classroom one morning and quietly stated to us, "My nephew has saved your lives." Her nephew, needless to say, was Jonas Salk who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine. The fear of polio was devastating and the worst epidemic took place a few years after 1944, the time of this haunting American novel. Nemesis captures the terror and dread ...more
I was quite ready to launch into a lengthy literary analysis of this novel, but that was before I made it to part 3.

The author spends more than two-thirds of this novel building an extremely good character in Bucky Cantor and then putting his life through a wood chipper. Seeing Bucky slowly feed into the panic that has set in around him is compelling. Watching him turn into a crippled, bitter jerk is not. And Bucky's questioning of God, which occurs throughout the plot, feels entirely forced, as
Andrew Smith
I read somewhere recently that fiction readers tend to be generally more empathetic than non-fiction readers. And in a recent interview with Michael Cunningham (author of Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘The Hours’) he said, “The novel remains the most effective means of telling a reader what it's like to be somebody else.” It’s easy to see how a reader having understood, sympathized, and perhaps shared, the feelings, emotions and rationale of a well-crafted fictitious character might tend to do the same ...more
Kyle Shroufe
Let me start by saying that although I am not Jewish and don't have any particular interest in Jewish culture (which is what roth seems to write about mainly) I still find Roth to be one of my favorite authors, especially considering his rare genre of fiction that seems to change throughout his writing career. I will say however his earlier books (exp. Zuckerman Novels, and The Breast trilogy) were amazing I found the Breast trilogy to push boundries that hadn't been at the time and instead of e ...more
In his less exciting books, Roth is definitely the Sugar Ray Leonard of writing. In this tale of the polio scare of the 1940's, which leads into a philosophical diatribe on the soul in the face of circumstance, Roth presents us with a good-hearted man faced with the sudden sickness and death of several of the children he works with as their phys ed teacher. I don't fault the story for not having the kink and sexual fireworks of other works, but of the rather obvious turns and bland dialogue that ...more
Bucky Cantor, the 23 year old protagonist of Philip Roth's newest novel (novella really, it is quite short) is a mensch. He is a nice looking, athletic, caring yong man who seems to genuinely be concerned about others and more than anything, about doing the right thing. Watching Bucky's horror as a polio epidemic sweeps through New Jersey in the summer of 1944 is painful, yet somehow pure. Bucky seems like the best of us and reading his thoughts on the unfairness of life, his own helplessness in ...more
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
More about Philip Roth...
American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman

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“You have a conscience, and a conscience is a valuable attribute, but not if it begins to make you think you were to blame for what is far beyond the scope of your responsibility.” 11 likes
“He was struck by how lives diverge and by how powerless each of us is up against the force of circumstance. And where does God figure in this?” 2 likes
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