Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Human Stain

It's been almost a month since I last posted. Summer had something to do with that. The other was the summer reading I was doing. I got myself hooked on the Pretty Little Liars series for a novel or four. It's light and breezy and kept me entertained when it was too hot to bother, but not really worth my two cents.

In the meantime, usually at night, when temperature cooled down a bit, I gave The Human Stain a try.

I've read a novel by Philip Roth before.

The Plot Against America which was a brilliant depiction of a world where WWII didn't go as history tells us. The same concept as The Man in the High Castle, but more grounded in lives the average reader can relate to.

The Human Stain is also a work of poetry. I've read a few reviews here and there and sometimes he gets blasphemed for using to many adjectives as if he has a dictionary with words he needs to tick off before he can call it quits.
It's indeed a lot of fancy words to take in, I'm not going to deny this. In the beginning it's a little annoying because you can say what you want in only so many words, but as I got pulled into the story I stopped noticing it. It just was part of the charm this story had, which delivered quite a astonishing truth.

Coleman Silk is born a very pale black. So pale he can go about pretending he is white. Being born in a time where being black still meant missing opportunities, he chooses to enlist as a white man in the army and continues to live out a life as a white Jewish college professor at a small university in New England.
Coleman being called a racist by two black students, is the event that sets this novel in motion. His outrage, his succumbing to his fate and eventually gaining something from a bleak future is the thread that you'll follow until the end.
We look at Coleman's life through the eyes of Nathan Zuckerman, a local writer, who is forcibly introduced to Coleman when the latter bursts through his door demanding him to write his story, to write up the injustice of being called racist.
Together they go through the final coming of age, the age where nothing really matters anymore since it's all winding down.

Roth's language is superb, as I have mentioned before. It's like reading poetry turned into an intriguing story with lifesized characters set in a time almost everyone can relate to.

It's packed with every kind of wisdom you'd want in a novel and a few scenes got me thinking. The one that got me most was where the reference to the title is being given.

It's where Faunia, who is Coleman's sexual interest, talks about wanting to be a crow. She's just daydreaming and hearing the distant cawing of these majestic birds. She wonders why she is human and ponders about the simple life of being a crow. Being the one bird that doesn't budge to conventions, who is just practical and cruel.
She remembers this one crow who has been raised by a men and when he got set free, other birds picked on him. Would've picked him to dead, if someone hadn't made sure he got a safe place. The other crows didn't like this one, as if they could sense he didn't belong, as if they knew he was raised by humans. Tainted by a human stain.

The Human Stain takes us to every decade of Coleman's life, but most of it is during Bill Clinton's reign over America. When he's caught having sexual relations with Monika Lewinsky and when America's hypocrisy is at its best. It's the best setting possible for this novel. It creates the right atmosphere needed for a novel about racism and bold choices.