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Nemesis
by Philip Roth

Published: 2010-10-05
Hardcover : 304 pages
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In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth's wrenching new book: a wartime polio ...
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Introduction

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In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth's wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children. At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground?and on the everyday realities he faces?Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain. Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children's summer camp high in the Poconos?whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"?Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor's passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood. Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth's late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?

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Discussion Questions

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Was Eugene's reaction to what life presented to him a sign of inner weakness or strength?
What could Eugene have done to change the outcome of his life?
Who reacted more in keeping with reality, Arnold or Eugene?
by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/07/13

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  "Nemesis, Philip Roth"by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/07/13

This novel is a trip down memory lane for anyone of a certain age. Two wars are being fought at the same time; one is in Europe and the Pacific where World War II is raging and the other is ... (read more)

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