Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 18, 2017

(Something of a spoiler alert)

Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Nemesis is the story of a polio epidemic in Newark in 1944 and especially about its impact on a Mr. Canter, who runs a playground program and is about to become engaged.

Roth does an excellent job of showing the effects of polio on this small neighborhood, in relaying the horrible progression of the epidemic, which cruelly was most often contracted by kids.

But at Nemesis' end and despite my interest in this polio epidemic plot, I realized it wasn't really about polio. What it was about was the way in which individuals deal with the onslaught of horror in their lives. How some people can go on fairly effectively, not let things like disease or war or economic disasters corrupt their lives. But others cannot get past their terrible luck, and the idea that this turn of events was unjust. The idea that they didn't deserve it  completely derails them. The bitterness poisons everything.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books by Roth but apparently his last four books have dealt with this theme and I am most interested in seeing how his other characters deal with the fall of the sword.

When I wrote this little did I know
how the sword would fall on so many of us in the next few years.

Highly recommended.

Sergio Angelini, NINE AND TEN MAKES DEATH, Carter Dickson
Yvette Banek, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Les Blatt, CONTINENTAL CRIMES, ed. Martin Edwards
Brian Busby, CAUGHT IN THE SNARE, Mary Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, TURN ON THE HEAT, Erle Stanley Gardner
Richard Horton, RECALLED TO LIFE, Robert Silverberg
Jerry House, THE BARON IN FRANCE, John Creasey
Nick Jones, "Science Fiction from the Lewes Book Fair"
George Kelley, A CENTURY OF GREAT SUSPENSE, ed. Jeffrey Deaver 
Margot Kinberg, THE CEMETERY OF SWALLOWS, Jean-Denis Bruet Ferreols
Rob Kitchin, THE DUST OF DEATH, Paul Charles
B.V. Lawson, NAKED VILLAINY, Sara Woods
Evan Lewis, THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King
Steve Lewis, THE PUNCH AND JUDY MURDERS, Carter Dickson
Scott D. Parker KILLER'S DOOM: A Walt Slade Western by Bradford Scott.  
Matt Paust, THE THANATOS SYNDROME, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, SENORITA DEATH, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, EIGHTH CIRCLE, Sarah Cain
TracyK, DEAD SKIP, Joe Gores


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I do want to read this one. I found his THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA extremely disturbing at the time I read it, and the last year has shown how prescient it was.

As for the polio epidemic, I remember lining up in the gym to get the vaccine. Jackie knew several people who got it. One was the younger brother of a friend of hers, who apparently got the placebo when they were first testing the vaccine, and got polio. A brother and sister she knew in the summers upstate got it. The brother has the more serious attack and nearly died, but it passed and he was fine afterwards. The sister ended up with a leg brace.

Jackie's mother was clearly one of those "don't let it bother you" people. She used to laughingly tell the story of how everyone was so afraid that they'd keep their kids inside. She took Jackie to the park and they had it all to themselves!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil was playing outside with his cousin and a neighbor.The neighbor got polio and ended up in a leg brace, Phil was fine, his cousin died.

S. D. Parker said...

I am throwing my hat into the ring this week:

KILLER'S DOOM: A Walt Slade Western by Bradford Scott.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Wow. How old was Phil at the time?

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm going to try to find that one. Sounds interesting

pattinase (abbott) said...

Under ten.

J F Norris said...

It's a little after 10:30 AM over here and that means I'm finally done. Will you please add my post to the list? Thanks, Patti.

Murder Cancels All Debts by M. V. Heberden

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I think I have the Roth on the shelf, thanks for the reminder Patti. And thanks for including me in your roundup :)

Margot Kinberg said...

I must read some Roth, Patti - thanks. And I appreciate your including my post!

Todd Mason said...

Polio, along with the German measles, the last randomly virulent childhood-focused disease to be put down in the least the last one to smack nearly everyone around to one degree or another, in terms of everyone was likely to know someone touched by it.

Yes, the Damoclean swords do have a certain increasing eagerness as we personally avoid them, to whatever degree we do.

Wow, though. I think the youngest peer of mine every to die did so after I moved away from my New Hampshire high school, but the kid with some sort of congenital condition in my Connecticut elementary school I hadn't heard anything about after moving away from there after sixth grade. There was a good decade or so where even the older folks I knew well were maintaining to pretty impressive degree. Less so of late.

Mathew Paust said...

I remember the horror of polio in my neighborhood, the talk of iron lungs and the fear of "catching" it from someone who had it. The incident that stands out sharpest in my memory--so sharp everything's in focus, where we were standing on our front lawn, the look of the neighbors' houses--was when my dad came home from work and said a child we knew, who lived a couple of blocks away, was taken out to an ambulance "blue in the face." That description imprinted itself on my cerebrum. I remember feeling afraid to breathe, and then finally taking a huge breath and feeling a moment of gratitude that I could. Those were truly frightening times.