Search >>
Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
National Book Award
National Book Award for Fiction
National Book Award for Nonfiction
Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
New York Times Best Books
New York Times Best Fiction Books of the Year
New York Times Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
LA Times Book Prize
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction
TIME Magazine Best Books
TIME Magazine Best Fiction Books of the Year
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
Amazon.com Best Books
Amazon.com Best Books of the Year
ALA Notable Books
ALA Notable Books - Fiction
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction
PEN/Faulkner Award
Pen/Faulkner Award
100 Best Novels
The Novel 100: The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time
Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the Century
FAW Best Books of the Year
Best Books of the Decade
Best Books of 2013
Best Books of 2012
Best Books of 2011
Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009
Best Books of 2008
Best Books of 2007
Best Books of 2006
Best Books of 2005
Best Books of 2004
Best Books of 2003
Best Books of 2002
Best Books of 2001
Best Books of 2000
Best Books of 1999
Best Books of 1998
Best Books of 1997
Author Honors
New Yorker 20 Under 40 (2010)
New Yorker Twenty Best Young Fiction Writers in America (1999)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (2007)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (1996)
Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2003)
MacArthur Fellows in Fiction
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35

The Human Stain
PHILIP ROTH

The Human Stain by Philip Roth
271 reviews (2000) (384p)
PEN/Faulkner Award Winner
New York TimesĀ® Best Fiction Books
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction

Visit this book's Amazon.com page >>


Book Description
It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."


Amazon.com Review
Athena College was snoozing complacently in the Berkshires until Coleman Silk--formerly "Silky Silk," undefeated welterweight pro boxer--strode in and shook the place awake. This faculty dean sacked the deadwood, made lots of hot new hires, including Yale-spawned literary-theory wunderkind Delphine Roux, and pissed off so many people for so many decades that now, in 1998, they've all turned on him. Silk's character assassination is partly owing to what the novel's narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, calls "the Devil of the Little Place--the gossip, the jealousy, the acrimony, the boredom, the lies."

But shocking, intensely dramatized events precipitate Silk's crisis. He remarks of two students who never showed up for class, "Do they exist or are they spooks?" They turn out to be black, and lodge a bogus charge of racism exploited by his enemies. Then, at 71, Viagra catapults Silk into "the perpetual state of emergency that is sexual intoxication," and he ignites an affair with an illiterate janitor, Faunia Farley, 34. She's got a sharp sensibility, "the laugh of a barmaid who keeps a baseball bat at her feet in case of trouble," and a melancholy voluptuousness. "I'm back in the tornado," Silk exults. His campus persecutors burn him for it--and his main betrayer is Delphine Roux.

In a short space, it's tough to convey the gale-force quality of Silk's rants, or the odd effect of Zuckerman's narration, alternately retrospective and torrentially in the moment. The flashbacks to Silk's youth in New Jersey are just as important as his turbulent forced retirement, because it turns out that for his entire adult life, Silk has been covering up the fact that he is a black man. (If this seems implausible, consider that the famous New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard did the same thing.) Young Silk rejects both the racism that bars him from Woolworth's counter and the Negro solidarity of Howard University. "Neither the they of Woolworth's nor the we of Howard" is for Coleman Silk. "Instead the raw I with all its agility. Self-discovery--that was the punch to the labonz.... Self-knowledge but concealed. What is as powerful as that?"

Silk's contradictions power a great Philip Roth novel, but he's not the only character who packs a punch. Faunia, brutally abused by her Vietnam vet husband (a sketchy guy who seems to have wandered in from a lesser Russell Banks novel), scarred by the death of her kids, is one of Roth's best female characters ever. The self-serving Delphine Roux is intriguingly (and convincingly) nutty, and any number of minor characters pop in, mouth off, kick ass, and vanish, leaving a vivid sense of human passion and perversity behind. You might call it a stain. --Tim Appelo


Other Award Winning Books by Philip Roth
Nemesis by Philip Roth
521 reviews (2010) (304p) ()
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Everyman by Philip Roth
159 reviews (2006) (192p) (PF)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
506 reviews (2004) (400p) (NBCCA) (NYTimes) (Amazon) (ALA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
I Married a Communist by Philip Roth
52 reviews (1998) (336p) (LATimes) (ALA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
345 reviews (1997) (432p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
64 reviews (1995) (464p) (PP) (NBA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Operation Shylock by Philip Roth
30 reviews (1993) (400p) (PP) (PF)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Counterlife by Philip Roth
23 reviews (1987) (336p) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth
15 reviews (1983) (304p) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND by Philip Roth
4 reviews (1981) (700p) (NYTimes) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
38 reviews (1979) (192p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Professor of Desire by Philip Roth
10 reviews (1977) (272p) (NBCCA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
My Life As a Man by Philip Roth
13 reviews (1974) (352p) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
57 reviews (1959) (320p) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
93 reviews (288p) (Modern100)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Philip Roth Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 21  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 13  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 1 American Pastoral ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 4 American Pastoral · Operation Shylock · Sabbath's Theater · The Ghost Writer ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 The Counterlife ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 6 American Pastoral · The Anatomy Lesson · The Counterlife · The Ghost Writer · The Plot Against America · The Professor of Desire ·  
National Book Award Wins 2 Sabbath's Theater · Goodbye, Columbus ·  
National Book Award Nominations 6 My Life As a Man · Sabbath's Theater · The Anatomy Lesson · The Counterlife · The Ghost Writer · Goodbye, Columbus ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 3 Operation Shylock · The Human Stain · Everyman ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 3 Operation Shylock · The Human Stain · Everyman ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

BACK

Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact