Posted by Justine Solomons on 12 September 2012, in Recommendations
Review by Julia Newhouse
The Scientists by Marco Roth is honest insightful and well written. The tale of a young man’s (true) journey into adulthood against the background of a dysfunctional New York Jewish family battling with the secret of a father who is dying from AIDS, this doesn’t seem like the kind of book that I would readily relate to. Marco Roth’s life has been entirely different to my own - I am a woman, not American, and the increasingly rare product of a wonderful childhood and loving, stable, ‘normal’ parents. As such, I can’t relate to a childhood spelled out against a particular backdrop of secrecy and dysfunction (which is not to say without love). What I can relate to is the inner-voice that Roth captures. The inner voice, and the journey of introspection that he has not only eloquently laid out on the page, but also carefully considered for himself.
Roth is clearly an incredibly intelligent man- he is the kind of man who would likely outsmart me at a dinner party - but he is not the sort of man who I would resent for doing this. Throughout the text, Roth references and critiques literary works and pieces of theory from Oblomov to the ideas of Paul de Man. He discusses both these theories in a wider context, as well as how they relate to his life, and that of the father who introduced him to literature. Many of these names flitted into my academic consciousness over the course of my University life. I never, however, warmed to theory in the same way that Roth clearly has. In this way¸ Roth’s intellectual world is familiar to me, though I cannot say that I belong to it. What I can say, is that I enjoyed the theory and literature that underpin the personal biographical aspects of The Scientists, and that these references play an interesting role in not only explaining Roth’s thinking, but also explaining something about Roth and his father, and the relationship they had built through literature.
I loved this book. Simply loved it. Roth’s considered, careful writing suggest that Roth is both a good writer, and a smart man who, though intimidating in some capacity, is at his core as insecure as the rest of us. Marco Roth’s life has not been one of exceptional fame or infamy, as so many biographies or autobiographies are. His life has been out of the ordinary in much of what he has achieved, as well as the family background that produced him- including the secret of his father’s death to AIDS. I found The Scientists fascinating because it is both a beautifully honest introspective novel, as well as crackingly well written book.