Sometime last December, The Washington Post featured their compilation of the best books of 2008 in their Sunday Book World section, and I marked Indignation by Philip Roth as one to check out. A little over a month later, I couldn’t remember what appealed to me from the short description of the book, but there it was at my local library, so in the bag it went. From the opening passage, I realized that this was going to be a very different kind of read than what I usually lean toward.
This short novel focuses on a character, Marcus Messner, at the cusp of adulthood as he attempts to escape the watchful eye of his father. Sounds very typical of a 19 year old, but the twist is that Marcus is quite an innocent, well-behaved young man who has no desires to do anything even slightly rebellious. In fact, he simply wants to go to college and study, yet his father’s increasing level of obsessive worrying about his welfare is frustrating and offensive to him, the only son who has been nothing but ‘the obedient child’ his entire life. The course of the novel follows the consequences of each particular choice Marcus makes over the approximate time span of a year. The framework of the storytelling is unconventional as well, told in the first person but with a twist that is made apparent about 50 pages into the book.
While Marcus may not have been a terribly lovable character to me, or even someone that I could relate to on a superficial level, I could certainly understand the stage of life that he finds himself trying to navigate– that post-adolescent, trying-to-find-your-path-in-life period that college represents for so many. His voice rings out loud and insistent. While he professes to a slew of solidly held ideals, he simultaneously finds himself questioning everyone and everything around him. This snapshot of a story– about a year of his life– is filled with angst, drama, fear and most certainly, indignation, and it is a compelling read, even when it’s brash and impure.
Dawn regularly contributes money to her local library in the form of late fines. She can be found captivating a very small audience at my thoughts exactly.