Sunday, November 9, 2008

Storming a (non-existent) heaven

Every Friday, the New York Times Book Review (published in print in the Sunday paper) arrives in my in-box. My usual procedure is to glance at it and, unless there's something I urgently want to read, file it in an e-mail folder labeled (surprise) 'nyt bk review'. I just looked at this folder and was horrified at how I have let them pile up. So I quickly deleted a few, but I paused to read David Gates's review, published back in September, of Philip Roth's novel Indignation.

According to the review, the novel centers on a college student who is also the narrator and who is revealed, a quarter of the way through the book, to be dead. Roth portrays the afterlife as a place where
"your actions are naggingly being judged for all time by yourself.”

Here's the conclusion of Gates's review: "...of all Roth’s recent novels, it ventures farthest into the unknowable. In his unshowy way, with all his quotidian specificity and merciless skepticism, Roth is attempting to storm heaven — an endeavor all the more desperately daring because he seems dead certain it’s not there." Listen to the way "endeavor," "desperately, "daring," and "dead certain" work together. What a terrific sentence. I've never read David Gates -- never heard of him, in fact -- but maybe I will now.

1 comment:

bro said...

Good writing indeed.
For some reason it makes me think of the classic rock ballad "Knock Knock Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Check it out.