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Nemesis

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  10,981 ratings  ·  1,232 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
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  10,981 ratings  ·  1,232 reviews


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İntellecta
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With "Nemesis" Philip Roth presents another masterpiece in terms of linguistic brilliance, composition and the creation of a lasting effect on the reader. The story takes place in 1944. In Europe and the Pacific the world war raged.

In the summer of 1944, a polio epidemic broke out in Newark, New York. (Poliomyelitis) It was the strongest epidemic in eleven years.

Philip Roth has written a very exciting and tragic story. You can follow the story breathlessly as a reader and
...more
Lisa
I have been thinking about what makes some books stay in my memory...

... even long after I returned them to a library in a town from which I moved away some ten years ago? And why others just fade away to the extent that I could possibly read them again without ever recognising that I have actually met the characters before? Or to the extent that I buy a new copy because I have forgotten I own one already?

Philip Roth's "Nemesis" is one of those books I remember with force after ten
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
The last of the eponymous tetralogy, Nemesis is the powerfully written tale of Bucky Cantor and the Newark polio crisis of 1944. Unable to go into the war like his friends primarily due to his poor eyesight, Bucky - a natural athlete- works as a gym teacher and playground director (do those even exist anymore?) when the epidemic hits Newark hard. As always Roth's prose is sublime, his humanity breathtaking, and his analysis sharp and precise. Roth said that this would be his last book ever and I ...more
brian
Oct 08, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Andrew Smith
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A further reading of a book that has stayed with me. I'd go as far as to say it's one of the five most memorable books I've read. A sympathetic and sometimes unsettling account set at a time of suspicion and suffering. The reflection on human nature - both good and bad - has the ring of complete truth about it. It's easy to believe that the conversations and events depicted here actually happened. It's both a sad tale and an uplifting one. It's a book that creates in the reader the need for refl ...more
David Schaafsma
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on”—Robert Frost

“The meaning of life is that it stops”—Franz Kafka

In Nemesis, Eugene “Bucky” Cantor works as a recreation director at a park in Newark in 1944. Because he has bad vision he can’t serve in WWII fighting Hitler, but his battlefield (at the recreation center) becomes the largest Polio epidemic in the US since 1916, also affecting many Jews. Besides his eyesight, Bucky is otherwise fit an
...more
Lisa
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a joy! After reading several debut or "promising" novels, it is a relief to be in the hands of a skilled professional. I see no diminution of Roth's power in his last novel. The story of a young man in 1944 Newark, in the midst of a polio epidemic, is brilliant and thought provoking.
Paul Bryant
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Krok Zero
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fall-2010
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 personal crisis
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
It wasn't great Roth, but I've got to say almost any Roth is going to be pretty damn good. This one focuses on a polio epidemic in 1944. It seems like late in Roth's writing career, after going on one of the greatest runs of 5 star literature ever, Roth spent a decade writing high little novellas that allowed him to explore delicate themes. These books seem to me, the equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright spending his last years working just on chairs and desks. So, yes, pretty damn good, but in the ...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
FRICKIN FANTASTIC---

If I could pick one author to study ---(read and discuss his books)---in a College University class---
it would be Philip Roth.

He gets to me 'Always'.....and "Nemesis" is a gem.

Rather than add anything else to the already wonderful 'other' 5 star reviews that several people also gave this book....

I'll just say--- I think Roth is one of our very best contemporary American writers we've got!

Love how this guys brain works!!!<
...more
Helle
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Helle, meet Philip. Philip, meet Helle. Except of course, Philip Roth has not met me – but I have certainly met him. His is one those names that have been hovering on my horizon for years, but after abandoning Portnoy’s Complaint years ago (vowing that I’d get back to it when I was a more mature reader), I kept putting it off, suspecting he wasn’t really my kind of thing. I’m still not sure that he is, but I’m glad to have met him.

The novel is a portrait of polio and its ravaging effects in 1
...more
Marc
If you have never read a Philip Roth book before, then this is your perfect opportunity: you only need three hours. But keep in mind: though it does contain some of his classic ingredients (the Northeastern city of Newark as the place of action, the Jewish environment, the process of a 3rd storyteller who tells the life of someone else), this is not a typical Roth.

First of all "Nemesis" is much shorter than most of Roth’s other books, and it does not contain that complex composition, deeper str
...more
Fabian
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Headline: Tremendous Writer Tackles Playground Apocalypse!

This is perhaps the weakest in the Nemesis series of Roth's more modern more briefer novels--Everyman and The Humbling offering a wider array of human emotion with more surprises/anecdotal acrobatics than here, were the sole surprise is that the title refers not to a human adversary.
HBalikov
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Roth can tell you a lot about Newark, New Jersey. It was a perfect backdrop to his Plot Against America and it works here in a more nuanced plot. The story takes our protagonist from a summer job supervising kids at a playground during the war to the middle of a polio outbreak in his own neighborhood.

I feel on dangerous ground describing any more of the story. The details of day to day life in Jewish Newark sound authentic and Roth, having been raised there, needed only to mine his m
...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
How does an epidemic spread...and what is infected? Can a society become infected by the bias it has 'inoculated' within the norms/values it shares? My favorite book by Philip Roth.
Kinga
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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 si
...more
Carol
This is a frightening story about a polio epidemic that spreads throughout the Jewish community of Newark during the excruciating hot summer of 1944, and the struggles of 23 year old Bucky Cantor who's 4-F military status keeps him from joining his buddies in the war.

Bucky, a physical education teacher, is an extremely conscientious and kind-hearted young man who sincerely cares for the children in his care and is well-liked and admired for his athletic ability and easy-going ways in return, but as his "kwar.

Bucky,
...more
Perry
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stela-eða-láni
The Petrifying Fear of Polio in 1944 Newark, NJ, USA

As war raged overseas in 1944, the U.S. was fighting against the polio epidemic, particularly in its largest cities, such as Newark and its large Jewish community. In this short novel, probably Philip Roth's last one, he explores the effects on a community when a lurking, unseen evil is the enemy: fear, panic, loss of faith in God. Polio is a virus, or infectious disease, that can cause severe weakness in muscles and paralysis. No vaccine
...more
Lawyer
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
...more
Josh
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Not quite living to my
Expectations of Roth, Nemesis
Meets the demand of his faithful readers and delivers an
End to a prestigious career. It is a
Story of hysteria, sickness and sadness;
Intertwining reminiscence with a moral conclusion.
Simple, superfluous mostly, but still Roth-esque in nature.
Laysee
Jan 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Re-posting in honor of Philp Roth who died on May 22, 2018. Nemesis (2010) is his last book.

Set in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey (Roth’s birthplace), Nemesis tells the story of a Jewish young man, Bucky Cantor, who serves as playground director in a summer outdoor program for children. The story is told from the perspective of Arnie Mesnikoff, one of several children whose life is irrevocably changed by a polio epidemic in the summer of 1944, a time when a cure for polio is still six years
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Jason Coleman
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: greatest-hits
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 story away here—via ...more
Connie G
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 the pl ...more
Jason Koivu
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
An upstanding young man who only wishes to do the right thing gets caught up in a polio epidemic in 1940s New Jersey and has no idea if he's doing the right thing. This is a nice look at a person's inner turmoil and how his moral standards force him to continually martyr himself.
Shane
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Roth retreats into his childhood during the 1944 polio epidemic in Newark to reveal the nemesis of guilt that can destroy lives far more insidiously than the poliomyelitis did.

Bucky Cantor is an athletic young man of 23, battling personal handicaps. His poor eyesight has kept him out of the war (every eligible male in that time was hunkering to get a shot at the war, it seemed), his mother had died during childbirth, and his father was a crook; his much- loved grandfather had passed
...more
W.D. Clarke
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shortish but emotionally exhausting. There's not much you can describe without being a spoiler: But, then again, you do kinda know what's coming, don't you? I mean, it's not only Philip Roth, it's Philip Roth's final novel, his closing statement.

Case in point: the main character, Bucky Cantor, has this argument with his God, "an omnipotent being who was a union not of three personas in one Godhead, as in Christianity, but of two—a sick fuck and an evil genius"(265). To my memory that argument k
...more
Jim
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. ...more
Charlene Intriago
Lots of reviews about this one so I won't add much other to say that it was my book club book for February and it was a good book to discuss.
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Philip Milton Roth was 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 include American Pastoral (1997) (winner ...more
“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.” 22 likes
“It was impossible to believe that Alan was lying in that pale, plain pine box merely from having caught a summertime disease. That box from which you cannot force your way out. That box in which a twelve-year-old was twelve years old forever. The rest of us live and grow older by the day, but he remains twelve. Millions of years go by, and he is still twelve.” 7 likes
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