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The Plot Against America eBook –

Israel didn t exist yet, six million European Jews hadn t yet ceased to exist, and the local relevance of distant Palestine under British mandate since the 1918 dissolution by the victorious Allies of the last far flung provinces of the defunct Ottoman Empire was a mystery to me I pledged allegiance to the flag of our homeland every morning at school I sang of its marvels with my classmates at assembly programs I eagerly observed its national holidays, and without giving second thought to my affinity for Fourth of July fireworks or the Thanksgiving turkey or the Decoration Day double header Our Homeland was America Then the Republicans nominated Lindbergh and everything changed The three most important things in real estate may be location, location, and location, but when it comes to book reviewing, an argument can certainly be made that the three most important things are timing, timing and timing A review of this book written in 2004, when the book was published, would have been a lot different from a review written in May, 2017, when Philip Roth s frightening description of the arrival of fascism in the USA seems to be coming to fruition before our eyes Philip Roth image from Salon.comSince the election of one Donald J Trump, there has been a booming business in books about fascism, with a particular interest in what it might look like here in the USA There are plenty out there that deal with post apocalypse landscapes, and there is certainly the possibility that those might offer a glimpse into our future But until Swamp Thing opts to launch, there are somewhat lesser scenarios to be considered Orwell s 1984 saw a huge boost in sales after the election Sinclair Lewis s ironically titled satire, It Can t Happen Here, also found a new generation of readers A recent addition to the group is Philip Roth s The Plot Against America This 2004 tale has a lot of creepy resonance with extant conditions in the USA of 2017 Substitute an Islamic family today for the Jewish one in Roth s alt world to make it really vibrate.Roth was inspired to write the book when he read in Arthur Schlesinger s autobiography that the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party had wanted Lindbergh to run The Plot Against America is an alternate reality scenario in which the GOP does indeed nominate the wildly popular Charles Lindbergh to run against FDR in Roosevelt s 1940 attempt to gain a third term Flogging a simplistic isolationist policy Vote for Lindbergh or Vote for War , Lucky Lindy is elected One could argue that Hilary was running for Obama s third term, so there is a bit of match up there And you can t get much isolationist than promising to build a wall, so a larger matchup in that As with the real Lindbergh, the fictional one has a soft spot for the new regime in Germany See Trumpian affection for Putin President Lindbergh does all he can to back the USA away from involvement in the European War, refusing to provide aid to Britain in its existential struggle See Trump withdrawing Republican support for protecting Ukrainian independence in return for help with getting elected Lindy promotes the America First slogan as part of his isolationist inclinations Swamp Thing, tone deaf to the fascistic DNA of the expression, repurposed it to a less focused general feel good chant, encompassing, ironically, military expansion and intervention, and a rash of trade policies Lindbergh even sees that laws are passed to encourage non Christians to relocate from their urban concentrations to locations where they would again be in decided minorities We re not there yet But give it time Trump is still trying to get past the courts to install a Muslim ban But the notion of setting up camps is definitely on his mind This is not a wonderful thing for the Roth family of Newark, living in a largely Jewish community.Our narrator is a fictionalized young Philip, commenting on the goings on from a family perspective How do the changes affect his father, his friends, his relations, his brother, Sandy, his aunt, Evelyn, neighbors and others Dad is a die hard American patriot, who happens to be Jewish See the introductory quote at top He insists that the madness of the new regime is a passing thing, and that the sober leaders of state will rein in the new demagogic leader I expect there are many who believed that DJT would be calmly managed by the establishment sorts in Washington, as there were many in Germany who believed young Adolph might be managed How s that workin out for ya One thing Roth s view of the 1940s has that we do not is a central media voice calling out the beast Walter Winchell is the spoil to Lindy s autocracy While there are many voices rising up against Trump in the media, no one has gained the sort of center stage of opposition that Winchell does here Trump tries his best to lump them all together as Fake Media, and they, particularly the Washington Post and NY Times are having a field day exposing DJT s innumerable screwups and crimes People talk about the possibility of leaving the country for Canada Ok, show of hands How many have given at least some thought to the possible appeal of our great northern neighbor, particularly residents of possible nuke strike targets, like, say NYC, LA, San Diego, Honolulu Ok, not so many as I expected, but still a fair number Brings back warm memories of being subject to the draft during those good old Viet Nam War days Some in the story manage to get out.Roth the author uses the Roth family as his window into various aspects of the national tip rightward A young relation leaves for Canada, not to flee, but to join up and fight Hitler, to the delight of the Jewish community Mom s sister becomes involved with a power hungry rabbi, a sort of megachurch media savvy cleric, who aligns with Lindy and allows himself to be used as a shield for the dictator against claims of anti Semitism This is, as one might expect, not received warmly in the Roth household Philip s older brother, Sandy is selected by the notorious aunt to participate in a program that places urban Jewish youth in distant Kentucky farms to give them of a feel for real America This was likely inspired by the Nazi Landjahr program in which teens were brought to country camps for a bracing experience of the outdoors, and heavy doses of propaganda Our friends in Mao s China did something similar, forcing intellectuals to work on farms as a way of encouraging them to become closer to manual laborers Sandy comes back tanned and muscled and is made into a poster boy for the program, again, to the family s dismay Maybe the Donald s version will send kids to R E developers to learn how to stiff contractors and refuse to house minorities We also see many of the elements of fascism that have graced the world s past people being kicked out of their jobs for being Jewish access to services like hotels being denied for the same reason mindless adoration of the vaunted leader see any Trump rally, or persistent support from his base in the face of relentless exposure of his traitorous dealings with Russia, and incredibly dishonest dealings with pretty much everyone At least Lindbergh had done something worthwhile in his pre presidential life It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary President like Charles Lindbergh than an actual President like Donald Trump Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927 He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day Trump is just a con artist The relevant book about Trump s American forebear is Herman Melville s The Confidence Man, the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel Melville s last that could just as well have been called The Art of the Scam Philip Roth from the New Yorker article But back to the story itself It is a novel and if we are not engaged, all the parallels in the world will not matter So, will it grab you and hold on Would I tell you it did if it did not Ok, answering a question with a question Who does that Who doesn t Fine, whatever Young Phil is an appealing sort, although not without his self serving, even criminal flaws, indulging as he does in some decidedly reprehensible behavior Despite Phil s shortcomings, Sandy s cooptation, and Evelyn s collaboration, the family is shown as decent people, real, relatable, struggling to cope with the creeping horrors of fascism on top of the usual struggles of working class people Another great strength of the novel is the rich portrait Roth paints of the community in Newark in which the family lives, the neighborhood people, merchants, and plenty of colorful characters A powerful central image of the story was Phil s stamp collection, an example of a pure appreciation of something beautiful, that is subjected in his dreams to unspeakable treatment My only gripe with the book is that I found the wind down at the end disappointing, as if, having accomplished what he had set out to do, show what fascism might look like here in the USA and how a Jewish family in America might be affected, there was no need to spend excess energy on plot But then, he did accomplish what he set out to do, so I guess that counts as a quibble Bottom line is that The Plot Against America is a very engaging novel for its characters and plot But the political resonance with America today gives it a particular zing And if you still think it can t happen here, consider that the current president of the USA has systematically fired the US Attorney who was looking into his business dealings, the Acting Attorney General who delivered to him damning intel about his National Security Advisor, and the head of the FBI, the man in charge of investigating DJT s involvement with Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election At some point he will probably fire Robert Mueller, special counsel newly appointed to take over the Russia gate investigation from former FBI head Comey And who knows how many heads will roll before it is all done If you think it can t happen here, consider the very real question of whether there is any action he can take that will force GOP members of the House of Representatives to vote to impeach Trump NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for one, believes that such a line does not exist, that today s GOP members have grown so calloused in their partisanship, in their preference for party over country, that they will go along with whatever DJT wants, whatever the cost to our democratic institutions and values The fascists in Roth s tale are ethnically driven than today s version, who worship at the altar of business, see tax cuts as a form of Eucharist, and use ethnic hatred and fear of the other as a cynical tool to rev up support for their medieval inclinations It bloody well can happen here, and it will take national effort and involvement by the American people to keep Philip Roth s dark vision from becoming reality Sadly, it has already part way arrived Review posted 5 19 17Published 10 5 20045 23 2018 Philip Roth passed away today, at 85 Here is his obit in the New York Times EXTRA STUFFRoth on Has it Happened Here in a January 2017 article in The New Yorker Philip Roth E Mails on Trump by Judith Thurman Roth on how his love of American literature and America shaped him as a writer I Have Fallen in Love with American Names How does Donald Trump stack up against American literature s fictional dictators Pretty well, actually By Carlos LozadaFirst It s the Muslims An Evolution to Dictatorship by David CraneThe Bund was a German organization in America that supported Hitler They staged a huge rally in Madison Square Garden and ran Nazi youth camps that were like the LandJahr program being run in GermanyHere is wiki on Landjahr it is in German but Google translates it nicely to EnglishMadeline Albright s book, Fascism A Warning, is definitely worth a look October 15, 2018 A nice short video that puts the current danger into historical context If You re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be February 24, 2019 NY Times Putin s One Weapon The Intelligence State by John Sipher a former CIA station chief points out the long history of political interference in the West by Moscow An alternative blip in history, it melds a terrifying possibility with the timeline of WWII It s worth reading and, I liked it The ending made me think of the sound a phonograph needle would make if you drug it to the right track. Counter factual historical fiction, in the manner of Robert Harris Fatherland In it, Charles Lindbergh, the anti Semitic aviator and admirer of the Nazis, wins the U.S presidency by campaigning against FDR on a platform of non intervention in the European war I think the novel has special resonance now that a certain demagogic New York billionaire, known primarily for his nattering narcissism and pathological lying, is licking his mid term wounds in the Oval Office.Though at times intricate and compelling, this is not Roth s best work It s a somewhat uneven performance from the man who gave us the astonishing American Pastoral and the hilarious through the roof masterpiece, The Counterlife But I d argue that because the result is flatter and straightforward than usual, one is able to see plainly the book s structural devices In his dazzling works, the technique tends to vanish within the beguiling magic of his prose. I cannot tell a lie. George WashingtonWE VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY 1 star bonus lifting it from 4 stars in 2018 From The Plot Against AmericaThe pompous son of a bitch knows everything It s too bad he doesn t know anything else nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others How can people like these be in charge of our country If I didn t see it with my own eyes, I d think I was having a hallucination. Philip Roth, The Plot Against America Roth s convincing tale of an alternate U.S history has been made all the plausible by recent events I mean, look again at these quotes In this 1940 America, the heroic Charles Lindbergh, known as an isolationist and admirer of Hitler in his early years, is elected U.S President in a landslide over FDR by voters fearful of becoming involved in another European war The U.S does not get involved in WWII and the election unleashes a swelling tide of anti Semitism resulting, ultimately, in assignments of Jewish citizens to certain areas designated by the U.S government s new Office of American Absorption Roth impressively paints this tense fictional world in the Newark, New Jersey in which he himself was raised He narrates through his early teen, fictional self providing an absorbing read made captivating by recent Russian interference with the U.S Presidential election and even timely and chilling with this week s announcement that U.S law enforcement agencies are investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump campaign leaders associates as well as possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump s campaign.Update 3 14 17 Great podcast discussion of Novel Trumpcast Discussion of The Plot Against America and what Roth s 2004 novel can tell us about the current state of affairs 3 14 17 White House officials admit no evidence to backup his latest Twitter claim that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Towers campaign HQ intended to distract attention from legislative and FBI investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia and its attempt to influence Americans election of President of the United States It is now life and not art that requires the willing suspension of disbelief. Lionel TrillingFalsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it, so that when Men come to be undeceiv d, it is too late the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect Jonathan Swift And how long will the American people stand for this treachery perpetrated by their elected president How long will Americans remain asleep while their cherished Constitution is torn to shreds Not a big fan of alternative history at all, even though thought experiments like Harris Fatherland create an atmosphere of chilling excitement, I was skeptical when I started on this bestseller Being a big fan of Roth in general, I was suspicious of both the genre he had chosen and the success it had it didn t bode well.What can I say Seeing America in the hypnotised grip of a fascist leader seems less and less like an alternative history to me, and I have to acknowledge Roth s political instincts The story of Charles Lindbergh winning a landslide victory against Roosevelt during the Second World War could definitely have happened in the divisive political climate of today, so the What if effect of the novel has turned into a sigh of frustration That s it Only worse So as a prophesy of the current developments in America, I will give the novel all the credit it deserves It is well written and exciting, and has some vintage Rothisms.BUT.It is not as good as his other novels, unfortunately, and compared with himself, Roth loses ground in this story which would be a less talented writer s masterpiece It is a bit too simplistic, bowing too much to sensationalist, bestselling writing techniques, to be a true critical study of America in decline Roth can do better than this, and that says about him than about the novel It is a good read, whereas he can be brilliant My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election ends with The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, an elaborately woven and eerily prognostic alternate history Published in 2004, the Pulitzer Prize winner supposes that aviator, dinner party anti Semite and Nazi Party favorite Charles A Lindbergh wins the Republican Party nomination in 1940 On a platform of America First and keeping the U.S.A out of war, Lindy defies pollsters and denies President Franklin D Roosevelt a third term His regime targets a religious minority, in this case, Jews The audacious story is the first person account of Philip Roth, who in 1940 really was a seven year old postage stamp collector growing up in the Jewish enclave of Weequahic in Newark, New Jersey, where the novel is set The alternate history Philip has a twelve year old brother named Sandy, a prodigious artist Their father Herman is a thirty nine year old insurance agent whose fifty dollar per week salary pays the bills and little Their thirty six year old mother Bess is a tiny woman who manages the household She shares her husband s ardor for the United States, the Constitution, President Roosevelt, the New Deal and the Democratic Party.Philip recounts how Charles Lindbergh was once a hero in his neighborhood, following the aviator s historic flight from Long Island to Paris aboard the Spirit of St Louis in 1927 Eleven years later, Germany s mounting terror campaign against Jews is underway across Europe and Lindbergh accepts a Service Cross of the German Eagle during a visit to Berlin A stoic celebrity who reaps public sympathy following the mysterious kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, Lindy strides into a deadlocked Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1940 Philip and Sandy are wakened by the exclamation of their mother, father and older cousin Alvin as they listen by radio The anger that night was the real roaring forge, the furnace that takes you and twists you like steel And it didn t subside not while Lindbergh stood silently at the Philadelphia rostrum and heard himself being cheered once again as the nation s savoir, nor when he gave the speech accepting his party s nomination and with it the mandate to keep America out of the European war We all waited in terror to hear him repeat to the convention his malicious vilification of the Jews, but that he didn t made no difference to the mood that carried every last family on the block out into the street at nearly five in the morning Entire families known to me previously only fully dressed in daytime clothing were wearing pajamas and nightdresses under their bathrobes and milling around in their slippers at dawn as if driven from their homes by an earthquake.In the short term, the Roths spirits are raised by their national heroes President Roosevelt welcomes a celebrity opponent in Lindbergh with no political experience who is on record for supporting foreign dictators and disparaging Jews Bombastic muckracker Walter Winchell minces no words in assailing Lindbergh in his weekly radio broadcast They join luminaries such as New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, United Mine Workers president John L Lewis and journalist Dorothy Thompson pronouncing Lindbergh as unfit for office Philip s cousin Alvin, however, predicts that America is going fascist He departs for Canada to join the fight against Hitler.Polls two weeks before the election show FDR comfortably ahead in both the popular vote and the Electoral College Republican officials reportedly grouse at Lindbergh s insistence to steer his own campaign, piloting the Spirit of St Louis from state to state and offering nil about his potential administration His platform is simple Your choice is Lindbergh or war His campaign gets an assist from Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf of Newark s B nai Moshe temple when he vouches for Lindbergh at a rally in Madison Square Garden The rabbi s message to gentiles that a vote for Lindy is not a vote for antisemitism spurs a landslide victory for the challenger.President Lindbergh meets Adolf Hitler in Iceland to sign an understanding of non aggression, as well as with emissaries of Emperor Hirohito in Hawaii The deals ignite protests in a dozen U.S cities, but most of the country rejoices at peace In an attempt to show Philip and Sandy that America has not gone fascist, the Roths undertake a vacation to Washington D.C Returning to their hotel, the Roths discover that their reservation has been canceled and they ve been evicted Bess is skittish to the point of tipping over into paranoia Her husband is unable to keep his antipathy for the new president quiet, drawing remarks of loudmouth Jew from two tourists at the Lincoln Memorial But my father could see nothing You think you d hear that here if Roosevelt was president People wouldn t dare, they wouldn t dream, in Roosevelt s day , my father said But now that our great ally is Adolf Hitler, now that the best friend of the president of the United States is Adolf Hitler why, now they think they can get away with anything It s disgraceful It starts with the White House Whom was he talking to other than me My brother was trailing after Mr Taylor, asking about the mural, and my mother was trying to prevent herself from saying or doing anything, struggling against the very emotions that had overpowered her earlier in the car and back then without anything like this much justification Read that, my father said, alluding to the tablet bearing the Gettysburg Address Just read it All men are created equal While the president praises Hitler as the world s safeguard against the spread of Communism and Germany pushes the Russians east, the Lindbergh administration hits close to home for the Roths by forming the Office of American Absorption and the Just Folks campaign, a mentoring program for select Jewish boys aged twelve to eighteen offering eight weeks with a sponsor family to learn farming Bess younger sister Evelyn, secretary and mistress to Rabbi Bengelsdorf, helps Sandy qualify for the program, which his father sees through as a fifth column intended to set Jewish boys against their elders and fracture the community.Alvin loses his left leg below the knee in battle and returns to Newark Philip assists his cousin with his bandaged stump and tries to keep his brother Sandy s admiration for Lindbergh a secret from his cousin, who feels like a chump for going off to fight Hitler for the benefit of Philip s father He learns to walk again using a prosthetic and takes a job at a grocer owned by another uncle, but when an FBI agent shows up asking questions about Alvin, his uncle buckles under pressure and fires his nephew, who disappears to work in a numbers running racket When Sandy is invited to the White House by his Aunt Evelyn, his mother and father refuse, devastating Philip s brother.Shepsie Tirschwell, a projectionist at the Newsreel Theater, sees what s going on in current events and tells Herman that he s moving his family to Montreal Bess takes a seasonal job at a department store and opens a savings account in Canada in case they too need to leave in a hurry Her husband refuses to be driven from his country, offering that it is the fascists who should get out In May 1942, his employer complies with Homestead 42, an initiative by the OAA to thin ethnic minorities from the cities and resettle them in rural areas, purportedly to homogenize the nation His decision to quit his job turns out to be prescient, while his refusal to leave for Canada is perilous Bess is lividAnd just where do they get the gall to do this to people my mother asked I am dumbfounded, Herman Our families are here Our lifelong friends are here The children s friends are here We have lived in peace and harmony here all of our lives We are only a block from the best elementary school in Newark We are a block from the best high school in New Jersey Our boys have been raised among Jews They go to school with other Jewish children There is no friction with the other children There is no name calling There are no fights They have never had to feel left out and lonely the way I did as a child I cannot believe the company is doing this to you The way you have worked for these people, the hours that you put in, the effort and this, she said angrily, is the reward Like many of Philip Roth s books, The Plot Against America has a clunky title that indicates non fiction or a symposium, anything but a compelling novel And before this year, it might not have been It seems as if half the book is a riff on Roth s boyhood in Newark his family relations, his odd friendships, his search for his identity The autobiographical detail grows self indulgent and my eyes even started to glaze over paragraphs wandering away from President Lindbergh or his destructive impact on the Roths The author favors marathon sentences and can spend two paragraphs describing nuns, which does not lend itself to a tense dystopian read.The marvel of the novel is how seamlessly it blends historical fact and devastating fantasy, as well as how accurately it predicts a regime change in the United States Given his era and his military bent, Lindbergh is stoic where our current president is emotionally unstable, but Lindy is as great a celebrity, cruising through his first election campaign against a heavily favored Democrat by appealing to the country s best intentions as well as its base hatreds, against politicians, the media and an ethnic minority The fear Lindbergh s statements and policies strike in Jews is analogous to that felt by immigrants in our country today and laid out for all its repulsive fascism by Roth.If there was a novel that utilizes fantasy elements to address the very real fear and hatred being stoked right now, and why none of us are going to like where America First leads, The Plot Against America is it The autobiographical material that serves as a bedrock did grow long in the tooth, but at the same time, the overall effect grounds the novel in reality in a way that science fiction cannot when tackling authoritarian dystopia Roth s approach is highly effective, personal and chilling the deeper he takes us into Lindbergh s presidency He includes a handy postscript that offers a true chronology of the historical figures who play a role in this eerie alternate history The novel offers a warning, which Mayor LaGuardia voices memorablyThere s a plot afoot all right, and I ll gladly name the forces propelling it hysteria, ignorance, malice, stupidity, hatred, and fear What a repugnant spectacle our country has become Falsehood, cruelty, and madness everywhere, and brute force in the wings waiting to finish us off Now we read in the Chicago Tribunethat all these years clever Jewish bakers have been using the blood of the kidnapped Lindbergh child for making Passover matzohs in Poland a story as nutty today as when it was first concocted by anti Semitic maniacs five hundred years ago How it must please the F hrer to be poisoning our country with this sinister nonsense Jewish interests Jewish elements Jewish usurers Jewish retaliation Jewish conspiracies A Jewish war against the world To have enslaved America with this hocus pocus To have captured the mind of the world s greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth In An Astonishing Feat Of Narrative Invention, Our Most Ambitious Novelist Imagines An Alternate Version Of American History In Charles A Lindbergh, Heroic Aviator And Rabid Isolationist, Is Elected President Shortly Thereafter, He Negotiates A Cordial Understanding With Adolf Hitler, While The New Government Embarks On A Program Of Folksy Anti SemitismFor One Boy Growing Up In Newark, Lindbergh S Election Is The First In A Series Of Ruptures That Threatens To Destroy His Small, Safe Corner Of America And With It, His Mother, His Father, And His Older Brother Back Cover The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a 2004 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication It goes without saying that Pulitzer prize winner, Phillip Roth, is a prolific writer While I have appreciated the books of his I have read, they are often very heavy, and I can only take them in small doses But, I don t know if I would have tried this one, if it had not been for Professor Snyder recommending it, in his book, On Tyranny I was a little concerned about the alternate history format, because for it to make sense, the reader needs to know the real history well enough to understand what does or does not work in the speculative world Their being Jews issued from their being themselves, as did their being American It was as it was, the nature of things, as fundamental as having arteries and veins, and they never manifested the slightest desire to change it In this case, a simple basic knowledge of the era is sufficient, but I did find it helpful to know a little personal history about Charles Lindbergh Understanding the small nuances of his character gave this book an even sinister quality But, of course, the most chilling aspect of this novel is that Roth might have had accessto a crystal ball, foreseeing what could happen, might happen, and actually did happen The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic The sad, honest, truth is, if I had read this book two years ago, I would have viewed it as genius, as eerily believable, as a coming of age tale, or who knows what other feelings I may have expressed about it, but reading it today, in our current political climate, the book takes on an entirely different tone It no longer feels like clever speculative or alternative fiction, but instead, it feels too realistic, hits too close to home, and basically left me with a feeling of impending doom, turning, tossing, and fretting I do urge everyone to read this book, if you haven t already If you have, read it again, because I think living through these dark days, the book will make a deeper impression on you As to the writing, pacing, and all the usual things we mention in reviews, I don t think that it s necessary to delve into all that It s Phillip Roth Enough said But, what does bear mentioning is, for me, next to The Human Stain this book is the best Roth novel, I have read, to date.5 stars HBO orders six episodes in November 2018, after almost a year of negotiations.Damnably timely today, 27 October 2018, after the Tree of Life shooting.This book should be as high on your TBR as 1984, Animal Farm, Snowball s Chance, and Christian Nation are already I hope they are, anyway.2018 UPDATE The book is going to be a miniseries Huzzah Now go read the article, because Philip Roth does a 45 takedown that made me guffaw in agony.Rating 4 of fiveIn my quest for article fodder, I reread this book I d forgotten how much I dislike Roth s use of Philip Roth as a character, it still feels like a cutesy poo arched eyebrow and crooked little finger at a tea party given by That Cousin pursed lips and tiny warning shakes of the head of Your Father s.But the election of President Lindbergh didn t so much as raise a hair in my truth sensitive eyebrows The slow descent into thuggish public behavior as the new norm, the collective meh, so what from those not affected, the disbelieving helplessness of the affectedRoth nailed it Look around you. My One 4th of July, Apple Pie, Patriotic, Love America and Truly Make Sure it doesn t get flushed down the fascist toilet book for 2019 Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn t Except when it does Philip Roth, The Plot Against America The Plot Against America is a must read for our times A tour de force and also sort of tour de dark farce that is at turns funny and scary and moving, it is an alternate history novel exploring what if isolationist and anti Semitic aviation hero Charles Lindberg had actually defeated FDR in 1940, running on an anti war platform, and had made a pact with Hitler, whose tyranny unimpeded by the USA as a key ally then continued unabated Specifically, Roth wonders what effects Lindberg s presidency might have had on his actual decidedly Jewish family, somewhat fictionalized in this novel Young Philip, 7, is inspired by his father s opposition to both Hitler and Lindberg, as is his cousin Alvy, who actually enlists with The Canadian Army because Lindberg fulfills his promise of America First with a focus on isolationism and doesn t allow the US military to fight Germany and loses his leg in France, thereby getting Philip s rich uncles to blame Philip s father for that, for even wanting to fight Hitler s fascism in Europe Alvy, having fought for Canada, is increasingly harassed as anti American, for choosing to fight Hitler, who becomes, thanks to Lindberg, a kind of ally of the US Yikes.One way Lindberg gets elected is that a prominent New Jersey rabbi argues for Lindberg and against the war Lindberg s first domestic initiative is the creation of the Office of American Absorption to encourage America s religious and national minorities to become further incorporated into the larger society The focus here is on the better assimilation of Jews in particular The OAA also later develops the Homestead Act, which helps relocate Jews and other minorities Sound familiar, Native Americans Or does it sound a little like deportation or travel bans, in principle Anyway, Phil s brother Sandy goes to a farm in Kentucky for the summer, and loves it, becoming for a time aligned with Lindberg and a spokesperson for the OAA program To have enslaved America with this hocuspocus To have captured the mind of the world s greatest nation without uttering a single word of truth Oh, the pleasure we must be affording the most malevolent man on earth Philip s Dad, actually speaking of Lindberg, and not you know whoSound ridiculous and possibly paranoid Well, that s what I initially thought But it is one storytelling feat to make the basis for the story outlandish, even screwy, and yet on some level make it darkly reasonable and frightening Could an isolationist fascist become President of the US of A Nah, it can t happen here But as Philip s father says, What do you mean it can t happen here It is happening here Roth works in actual forties historical characters throughout For instance, Walter Winchell, the liberal journalist, remains just as anti fascist as he was in real life in this version of American forties reality With the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, Winchell actually becomes the Democratic candidate for President But when Winchell takes his act on the road to anti Semitic Father Coughlin s Detroit, America s Kristallnacht begins, and all hell breaks loose, especially for Jews in America Fascism reigns, though that s not the end of the story.Maybe ultimately this novel is a reminder or rejoinder to Jewish and other pacifists who might have once opposed any war against fascism or dictatorships elsewhere Roth is saying that sometimes war is justified, and the war against Hitler was for him surely justified And Roth doesn t really care about Lindberg What he cares about is an electorate he sees as awed by media darlings, and moved by simple slogans like America First both Lindberg s and Trump s actual slogan , Big Business Types who promise us riches and scare us about threats to security and demonize and scapegoat particular minority groups in the process.But the main hero of this tale is really Roth s Dad, raging against the rise of fascism in America As Philip says, There were two types of strong men those like Uncle Monty and Abe Steinheim, remorseless about their making money, and those like my father, ruthlessly obedient to their idea of fair play Roth s mother is also admirable in steadfastly clinging to goodness and caring regardless of what craziness happens This book, written decades before Trump, has political targets, but it is also a love letter to his good, liberal, working class parents How can this be happening in America Philip s motherDid Roth in 2005 have in mind a cautionary tale for America s future He says no But here is Roth emailing with The New Yorker that the Lindberg nightmare fantasy he wrote about is nothing compared to what Trump could be for this country How can people like these be in charge of our country If I didn t see it with my own eyes, I d think I was having a hallucination Philip s mother I also just read The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which posits a ridiculous clownish, crude and rude Hitler like gangster rising to power in Chicago, ready to take over the country It can t really happen here, can it I m just paranoid, right