Sunday, Sep. 07, 2008


Two aging masters, Updike and Roth, are publishing new novels this fall, and they're both, in their ways, returning to books they wrote early in their careers. Updike has penned a sequel to The Witches of Eastwick. Roth, in his 25th (!) novel, has written what amounts to a remake of one of his early triumphs, Portnoy's Complaint. Like Portnoy, Marcus Messner is a screwed-up Jewish boy from New Jersey who goes off to college in Ohio and falls into the hands of a hot co-ed shiksa. But Roth has changed in the four decades since Portnoy was published. Indignation is written in Roth's late style, flat and deadpan, nothing like the crackling, hilarious virtuosity he deployed in Portnoy. But more important, Roth is more interested in history than he was back then. And history, in the form of the Korean War, intervenes in Indignation with shocking force.

— Lev Grossman