The Human Stain

The Human Stain

by Philip Roth

It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.

And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."

  • Series: The American Trilogy
  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.87
  • Pages: 384
  • Publish Date: April 5th 2001 by Vintage
  • Isbn10: 0099282194
  • Isbn13: 9780099282198

Read the Book "The Human Stain" Online

It wasnt hard to understand that life provided more opportunities if the world perceived him as white. The world will take care of him, as it had indeed taken care of Mr. Silk. He also along the way had four kids which is four times that he was sitting in a waiting room offering up prayers to whatever deity would hear them with his fingers, toes, and everything else crossed hoping the baby would be...white. He was calling roll call for a class and noticed that two people were gone again and had been gone since the beginning of the quarter. Does anyone know these people? Ive never really understood the derogatory connotations of using the word Spook in regard to a black person. I believe the term came into usage as a way to scare white children (a ghost that would get them) who had never seen a black person. Regardless, it does exist and any reasonable well educated person knows the word as a derogatory term when referring to people of color. If Silk had known the students were black would he have used the term? The problem is when your life is words you must select them carefully. I sympathize because most of the time I feel the same way, but I know they will slap a strait jacket on me and throw me into the nearest rubber room if I give them proper opportunity. He (seventy-two) starts having sex with a thirty-four year old, illiterate janitor, and part time milk maid at the local dairy. For anyone to think that Silk was taking advantage of her was ludicrous. Arent people close in age as capable of taking advantage (whatever that entails) as someone twenty, thirty, forty years older? I'm always questioning why I believe something and books like this put hockey puck ideas in my mind that bounce, carom, and sometimes hit the net proving that nothing is as firm a belief as I think it is.

Roth meshes history with modern tragedy; parallels that* with the goings on of a disgraced college professor; the torrid love affair is placed in the backdrop; the national consciousness is the Theme, as is the sadness in people living (or pretending to live) in modern times.

For the record, I have a pretty good vocabulary and I thorouoghly enjoy creative uses of the English language.

Christopher Hitchens Coleman Silk, a professor of classics at a local esteemed college, has been accused of racism by two African American students in one of his classes, after he notices upon calling roll that these two enrolled students never attend his class, and mumbles : "Do they exist or are they spooks?" Roth brilliantly uses the most ambiguous of words due to its several legitimate meanings compared to the one meaning racially derogatory to African Americans. Wikipedia's most comprehensive definition indicates the term's many meanings, a few of which fit the context of the professor's statement, only one of which is the racially offensive, pejorative use. I won't get too sidetracked on "political correctness" run amok in this country, particularly in academia, and misused as a tool amounting to censorship, but I'll footnote excellent, reasoned quotes from a nonfiction book about the cultural revolution changing this country since the 1960s as well as two late iconoclastic hyper-intellectuals: David Foster Wallace and Christopher Hitchens.** The narrator is Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman. Against a present backdrop of the 1998 Oval Office Orgasm Scandal of former President Bill Clinton, Roth develops what I believe is his best novel, one raising trusty old questions of identity and self-invention, i.e., questions of whether one can change the past (Gatsby) or whether the past is ever even past (Faulkner in Requiem for a Nun). From David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays: There's a grosser irony about Politically Correct English. In other words, PCE acts as a form of censorship, and censorship always serves the status quo.

Here's what I know: if a book features some old dude fucking some younger lady, check the author's age. This book is occasionally written very well, but it also has the young lady dancing naked for like 20 pages while she babbles about free love. The entire canon, as it was agreed on at some point by a bunch of old guys and their penises, is full of stories like this. Coleman Silk, the protagonist of The Human Stain, is one of those old guys. Fuck you, it's my fucking book, I'll decide how to read it. Of course Philip Roth isn't Coleman Silk.

The author sums it up perfectly on page 81 "You area a verbal master of extroadinary loquatiousnessP. Roth goes on and on by using every single adjective he ever learned in his SAT class, in a row, then completely counters every argument he just made, so he can use all the opposite words he knows. p195) but not quite as good at it as he is at using ellipses, dashes and commas to create an entire page of run on sentence that is, none the less, gramatically correct, and here the real skill- its also pointless. Full, copious, abundant,and then we needed superabundant- as if his point in unclear? how about this crap: "Stunned by how little he'd gotten over her and she'd gotten over him, he walked away understanding, as outside his reading in classical Greek drama he'd never had to understand before, how easily a life can be one thing rather than another and how accidentally a destiny is made... Most people know ethos, pathos, logos, but how about"The difference between diegesis and mimesis?" He seems to be trying to satorize his characters in the book, to make them seem obnoxious, overeducated and socially innept, secretly insecure which requires they blather on dropping names and fancy words. He does it constantly himself- in the authors own narration- as if his point wasnt already so obfuscated you have to go back through 2 pages, six dashes, a dozen commas, a hanful of ellipses to find where the sentence begins and remember what he was talking about.

Ci sono quei libri che si insinuano allinterno del tuo consolidato nido di credenze, idee, saperi, pregiudizi, convinzioni - che hai fortificato con fatica e scrupolosa dedizione in ventanni di scuola, vita familiare, cadute e ripartenze sentimentali - e sai già che non cè più nulla da fare. Sappiamo che lo scrittore deve essere un abilissimo fingitore ma siccome io non credo ad unabilità portentosa nel dissimulare che sia completamente disinteressata, devo pensare che il demone a cui risponde il signor Roth sia di natura personale. Non esiste che si vada così a fondo ad un personaggio senza che ci sia qualcosa di tuo. E tutta quella storia sulla necessità del testimone - perché il resoconto della faccenda qui ci viene fornito dallo scrittore Nathan Zuckerman - è una grossa panzana e qui si sta parlando di un meraviglioso alter ego. Daltra parte, non credo che lavorando di fantasia il signor Roth sarebbe stato in grado di arrivare a tali vette di autenticità.

I just watched the movie from 2003 starring Anthony Hopkins as Coleman, Nicole Kidman as Faunia, Gary Sinise as Zuckerman and Ed Harris as Les. It is a wonderful and accurate rendition of the book for the silver screen.