February 17, 2003
The Human Stain

Philip Roth's The Human Stain is the story of one Coleman Silk, a world-class Classics professor who has profited immensely from keeping a profound secret from his youth. On page one he is done in for good when he asks his class about some students who have yet to make it to roll call. He asks "Does anyone know these kids? Do they exist or are they spooks?"

The students he is asking after are black, and one of them goes straight to the Dean with accusations of racism. Ridiculous as the accusations seem, because it unfolds during the summer of 98, when no one can stop talking about the impeachment hearings, and because Coleman simply refuses to see that he has done anything wrong, the novel finds a logic all its own. Roth gets right into his country's psyche, comprised principally, as he sees it, of shameless know-it-alls with answers for everything:

"If Clinton had fucked her in the ass, she might have shut her mouth. Bill Clinton is not the man they say he is. Had he turned her over in the Oval Office and fucked her in the ass, none of this would have happened."

Coleman's story is sad and funny in the way that Clinton's is, in that it says so much about indignation and righteousness on both sides of an issue and in so doing speaks legions about envy and the role it plays in the will to taint a human being. I hate to say it, but aside from a couple-two-three James Baldwin protagonists, Coleman Silk has my vote for finest fictional American of all time. I'm the first to admit I'm not well read enough to make such a pronouncement and have it mean anything - Coleman himself would surely flunk me out of Athena for thinking in such terms - but I don't care - I give The Human Stain a perfect score.

And your vote for The Greatest Character in Contemporary American Literature is?

Posted by at February 17, 2003 02:55 PM
Comments

So it's Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinese - an all-star cast if ever there was one, and one destined to utterly ruin this most awesome novel's transference to the big screen. I predict the only person who does the job right is Mimi Kuzyk, (as Professor Delphine Roux) - a safe prediction, because at least I have no idea who she is.

Why must we rely so heavily on Name Actors? Why, when we can all admit, it takes an unknown to truly surprise us... Especially in taking on a role like Coleman Silk.

Anthony Hopkins?

I thought Coleman was supposed to be lithe and sinuous - never minding the other thing he's supposed to be.

The casting agent and the Celebrity-Obsessed producers should take full blame here for ruining what could most certainly have been a masterpiece of a movie.

Posted by: on June 30, 2003 02:16 AM .

gah!

a travesty.

better if the movie were never made.

Posted by: marijke on June 30, 2003 11:24 AM .

Marijke! I thought you had left me forever.

Posted by: on June 30, 2003 11:49 AM .

nah, i haven't left.

i'm just dormant.

Posted by: marijke on June 30, 2003 01:50 PM .

You cannot kill time without injuring eternity.

Posted by: Party Poker on November 4, 2004 08:39 PM .
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