A Diving Rock on the Hudson (Magill Book Reviews)
The title A DIVING ROCK ON THE HUDSON alludes to Ira Stigman’s temptation to end his despair by drowning himself in the Hudson River. He is going to be expelled from high school for petty thievery. He has far worse things on his conscience. He has regularly been committing incest with his sister. Although he hates himself, Ira cannot break off this relationship even after going through a nightmare of suspense when Minnie misses her period.
Roth, who was eighty-nine when this second volume was published, uses the fictional device of discussing creative difficulties with his word processor, which he calls Ecclesias. Talking to a machine emphasizes the isolation of a near-nonagenarian who has outlived his entire generation. The real plot holding the entire six-volume work together will have to do with a dying author’s struggle to complete it while telling bitter truths.
The reader cannot help but assume that Roth is confessing his own sins in thinly disguised fiction. Not expecting to live to see all six volumes in print, Roth seems indifferent to money and acclaim. His sporadic dialogues with Ecclesias suggest that he is motivated by a desire to exorcise guilty memories as well as a compulsion to fulfill his destiny as a writer after sixty years of self-imposed silence.
A DIVING ROCK ON THE HUDSON ends with a classic epiphany. Young Ira, plagued with feelings of guilt and inferiority, has an essay published in the New York City...
(The entire section is 384 words.)
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A Diving Rock on the Hudson (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
The title A Diving Rock on the Hudson alludes to the young protagonist’s thoughts of drowning himself in the Hudson River. He is in trouble at school, having gotten caught stealing fountain pens. He knows that his exposure will be heartbreaking for his doting mother and will confirm his father’s view of him as a schlemiel who should be earning money for the family rather than wasting time on such frivolities as high school. A Freudian might say that Ira Stigman has absorbed both his mother’s and his father’s opinions into his superego. His father’s influence makes him want to drown himself, but his mother’s faith makes him decide against it. He senses that there is something of value inside him that could prove his salvation if he could identify it, and that his best hope is through learning.
Ira has worse matters on his conscience than a few stolen pens: He has been regularly committing incest with his sister. It began with relatively innocuous rubbing and fondling when both parents were away but developed into actual sexual intercourse by the time Minnie was fourteen and Ira sixteen. Although Ira dreads the consequences of his parents’ discovery of what he and Minnie are doing instead of homework, he senses that some self-destructive element in his nature may cause him to betray his guilt.
Roth’s novel, published some months before his death in October, 1995, resembles James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy...
(The entire section is 1794 words.)