Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 252: Fall of Finales, Philip Roth (Nemesis)

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This week we’re back into our Fall of Finales season, in which we consider the final published work of notable authors. Philip Roth published the novel Nemesis in 2010, about two years before he announced that it would be his last published book. In interviews at the time, he said he’d turned his attentions to helping his biographer understand his various papers, and that he was also re-reading his own books, in reverse order, to take stock of his own career.

Nemesis doesn’t necessarily feel like a swan song of a novel. Though it returns to themes (and places) Roth wrote about throughout his career. The book takes place during the polio epidemic of 1944, in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. The novel’s protagonist is a young man whose eyesight kept him from WWII, and who is spending the summer working for the parks department, watching after some local boys, more than one of whom falls ill.

We talk about our impressions of the novel, but also about Roth more generally, including some of his naysayers, who often cite his treatment of women–both in his fictional universes and in real life–as one of the primary reasons to dump his work.

In the second half of the show, we also begin our annual dive into the forums of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to see what kinds of questions this year’s batch of scribes has as they begin their arduous month of writing.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or find us in Apple Podcasts–or wherever you normally get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 252:

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Thanks for listening!

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

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