August 18, 2008


Jon Polk

Also in the midst of writing my own review of Indignation, I am also struggling with how to deal with the 'Big Twist.' So far I am working with a sort of half-revelation, acknowledging the voice of the narrator and then moving on.

I've never read Winesburg, Ohio either. I've made a few false starts, but after a few days of refusing myself and then reading your response here, I think I may need to actually break down and get to it.

Michael O'D

Book criticism in popular magazines and newspapers has a fundamental commercial element to it—otherwise reviews would not be published contemporaneously with book release dates. That means people reading a such a book review might well go out and buy the book depending on the reviewer’s appraisal of it. I’ve never agreed with those who think that it somehow cheapens popular book criticism to have such criticism play a role in the book business; I would like to see some of the excellent but less-prominent books I review do well. So I think both of you should refrain from giving anything away unless the twist in this novel (which I haven’t read) is absolutely indispensable to your line of argument or your understanding of the book’s meaning. (Mere plot twists are frequently more superficial than that.) Don’t let some over-serious notion of purity in literary criticism overshadow the plain fact that a spoiler in your review will ruin the book for many readers.


I'm still waiting for an opportune time to sit down with Roth's second - and biggest - novel, 'Letting Go'. But, based on what you've said, and knowing only scant details of 'Indignation', 'Columbus, Ohio' may also be worth a read, if you haven't already done so. Thankfully, it's just a nudge beyond a hundred pages.


Because I was thinking of Winesburg, Ohio I've went and typed Columbus, Ohio. I meant Goodbye, Columbus, Roth's first work.

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