If my name was Philip Roth, I would write a libelous, anti-American novel called The Plot Against America.
The book is Roth's crude attempt at science fiction, although the novel isn't listed as such. It belongs to the sub-genre known as "alternate history."
He should have stayed in his field -- quasi-pornography like Portnoy's Complaint, which at least had the saving grace of being funny. There's not a molecule of humor in The Plot Against America.
Roth imagines what it would be like if Charles Lindbergh, who was about as close to a real hero as America produced in the 20th century, had run for President in 1940, and beaten FDR.
In Roth's warped and repellent fantasy, Lindbergh keeps the US out of World War II -- peace, God forbid! And hundreds of thousands of American lives saved! -- then immediately turns into the America version of Hitler and transforms a compliant US into a kinder, gentler Nazi Germany. He especially singles out Kentucky, which to him is the locus of All That is Evil in America.
Roth not only despises Kentucky and Lindbergh (who flew the P-38 Lightning in combat in the Pacific theater), he also despises everything west of New York City, which to him is almost exclusively populated by pointy-headed anti-Semites panting to hang Jews from the nearest tree. In fact, he despises America, insofar as anyone in it disagrees with his Bizarro World views of right and wrong.
The last novel I read this ludicrous was The Turner Diaries, a rabidly racist and anti-Semitic novel. In Roth's cases, he libels Catholics, who to him are just a hair's breadth away from turning into Ku Klux Klan Nazi assassins. It's surprising they can even get their kerosene-soaked crosses lit, considering how dumb Roth portrays them.
He is aghast that all those dim-witted troglodyes inhabiting the Midwest dared to vote out his beloved FDR, who was in reality a semi-fascist and a Communist sympathizer, and instead voted in a man who, in the tradition of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, saw no reason for us to get involved in another European war.
Lindbergh starts a program with the improbable name of "Just Folks," which grabs Jewish city boys and sends them to Kentucky to be Nazified. They return with a taste for ham and an accent straight out of Deliverance. I'm surprised Roth didn't have them goose-stepping all the way back through that undifferentiated damnation known as Flyover Land.
Roth has anti-Semitic riots break out all across America, including in such places as Cleveland and St. Louis. He appears to truly believe that all of America west of New York City is just waiting for the slightest excuse to launch pogroms against Jews. If that's true, what exactly is stopping all those inbred knuckle-draggers right now?
The novel has a happy ending -- for Roth. It's not so happy for the Midwest and Kentucky, to Roth and one and the same. I won't spoil the ending, except to say he gets to indulge in his version of genocide. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers -- many of them teenage boys -- sent through another European meatgrinder -- and Roth approves heartily of the slaughter.
a truly repellent novel, one without any appeal. Worst of all, it's boring.
How seriously can anyone take a novel populated by Catholic Nazi Klansmen
from Kentucky? If Roth had a conscience, he'd be ashamed of himself. Worse
than libeling Lindbergh, he has libeled America.
Lew Rockwell See Bob's archives there.