Amy L. Campbell's Reviews > Nemesis

Nemesis by Philip Roth
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Jul 03, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: advanced-copy, ala-2010, 2010, blogged, reviewed
Read in September, 2010

Note: This is a review of an Advanced Reader Copy and some details may be incongruous with the finished book.

I really could not get myself to care anything about Bucky Canton or his predicament. He only seemed to be blaming God, and then later himself, because it was convenient and not through any real turmoil or questioning of his faith. I found the characters to be a bit wooden and did not much care what happened to them. I was unable to build a relationship with any of them, and honestly I was more interested in the disease than anyone in the book. I was disappointed that I was not given more information about polio beyond it's basic symptoms, it seems like this was a teachable moment that was completely neglected in favor of extolling the virtues of Jewish suffering.

Which would have been fine, if the characters hadn't been presented initially as so freakin' perfect that I was just waiting for them to be taken down a notch only so they could recover and shine through as even more perfect, if physically flawed people. Instead Ubermensch Bucky Canton decides to wallow in self-pity and guilt for most of the book because his eyesight prevented him from going to war, and then he was impotent to prevent the spread of infectious disease. It's like this was a giant metaphor for Jewish male inefficacy to change or sway the will of God to stop murdering or crippling children. It just wasn't impressive writing and if this is how all Roth plays out I now know to avoid it.

The reviewer is a 2009 graduate of Kent State University's Master of Library and Information Sciences program, an alumna of Antioch College, and the author of the blog A Librarian's Life in Books.
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