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How the master lost his voice

Over a prolific career spanning five decades, Philip Roth has grown into America's most important living writer. Yet his talent remains a restless, paradoxical one—and, in his latest novel, the tensions fuelling it seem to have dissipated from ferocity into nostalgia

By David Herman   October 2008

Indignation by Philip Roth (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)

Halfway through Philip Roth’s new novel, Marcus Messner, a good Jewish boy from Newark, tries on a new suit. He wants to move from his local college, which is too near his possessive, adoring parents, to Winesburg, Ohio. He didn’t need any special clothes for college in Newark. However, going out into the other America—Christian, respectable, 1950s America—he needs a new outfit: “I pulled off everything I had on and dropped it at my feet like a pile of rags. I put on the new clothes… The clothes I’d bought to be a…

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