Philip Roth is my favourite author. American Pastoral my favourite book. That recently released film has been reviewed as a shambles so I have yet to be bored enough. Indignation one his earlier books turned into film was given three stars so was therefore deemed watchable. At lunchtime last Thursday in the wonderful art deco Odeon Covent Garden I joined four others and watched.
Early Roth(he has written 30 plus) is dominated by Portnoys Complaint. The later mature heights of American Pastoral, Human Stain and I Married a Communist yet to come. So Indignation covers the usual suspects of the beauty of the Jewish faith, the hopelessness of parents, the possessiveness of father, the long suffering of mother, masturbation, moving into the Wasp dominated world of American intellectual life, more masturbation are handled, yes handled. As is the assumption of 1950s conscious and unconscious anti Semitism. See racism today.
Never forgetting what happens when handsome attractive Jewish boy meets lovely Wasp princesses. Oy Vey! Shikse! What Chutzpah! They not only do it, but they enjoy doing it. They never teach you that in Hebrew classes. Sex at best is a marital duty reserved for the Sabbath when there is an R in the month. Since these blond sex goddesses are breaking the Talmud they must be not only bad, but mad and dangerous to know. Oy Vey,they aren’t even kosher. But first the blow jobs, always something that Roth ,along with many others, relishes.
A line from one of his books states beautifully that the great success of the 1960s was the ability of most graduate women to go down. Men had to be taught their tricks later.
Indignation is not only about sex. The set to with the Dean is one of the longest scenes in the film. Muscular Christian Wasp versus Atheist Jewish Intellectual. Three rounds,two submissions or one knock out. How they battle, Bertrand Russell’s disproof of God predating Christopher Hitchens by several decades. But does the philosopher’s sex life undermine his arguments? It ends with our hero going into hospital where the princess with her careful hands will visit. The pain,the pleasure,there is no end.
But early Roth is a vengeful Roth. Too much sex, too many rules of the Talmud broken and it has to be punishment. The proverbial handkerchief, which makes several appearances cannot wash all our sins away. Real life thankfully is different.