With the precociousness expected of the only child of a doctor and a classical musician—from the time he could get his toddler tongue to a pronounce a word like “De-oxy ribonucleic acid,” or recite a French poem—Marco Roth was able to share his parents’ New York, a world centered around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and dinner discussions of the latest advances in medicine. That world ended when his father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s.
What this family could not talk about for years came to dominate the lives of its surviving members, often in unexpected ways. The Scientists is a story of how we first learn from our parents and how we then learn to see them as separate individuals; it’s a story of how precociousness can slow us down when it comes to knowing about our desires and other people’s. A memoir of parents and children in the tradition of Edmund Gosse, Henry Adams, and J.R. Ackerley, The Scientists grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance, in a style that is both elegiac and defiant.
About Marco Roth
Marco Roth was raised amid the vanished liberal culture of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. After studying comparative literature at Columbia and Yale, he helped found the magazine n+1, in 2004. Recipient of the 2011 Shattuck prize for literary criticism, he lives in Philadelphia. This is his first book.
The only son of a medical scientist and a concert pianist, literary critic andn+1 founder Roth grew up in an Upper-West-Side atmosphere where reciting the classics and learning about biology with his father were the norm. Just as he was about to enter high school, he discovered that his father, who claimed to have contracted HIV through laboratory exposure many years before, was dying of AIDS. The family home soon became a suffocating space of denial where “the important thing was to behave as though nothing were wrong.” At the same time, Roth’s father developed a morbid interest both in the scientific literature about HIV-AIDS and in sharing the information dispassionately with his son. The author made halfhearted attempts to escape by attending Oberlin College, but he returned to New York on pain of being cut from his father’s will. After his father’s death, Roth traveled to Paris, ostensibly to study with Jacques Derrida, but more to find release from the ghost of his father. Upon his return, his father’s sister presented him with a manuscript in which she alluded to her brother’s homosexuality. Her claims caused Roth to begin an investigation of his father’s life through the novels that the elder Roth had given him. Eventually, he uncovered the truths his father could not articulate. – Kirkus Reviews
‘The Scientists’: A Father’s Lie And A Family’s Legacy
NPR Book Review – September 12, 2012 (Excerpt)
Every New York story ever written or filmed falls into one of two categories. The first — like Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or the musical On the Town — regards New York as the representativeAmerican city, a jam-packed distillation of the country’s dreams and nightmares.The second group views New York as a foreign place — a city off the coast of the U.S. mainland that somehow drifted away from Paris or Mars. Think every Manhattan movie ever made by Woody Allen. Marco Roth’s new memoir, The Scientists, definitely belongs to this second, more cosmopolitan group of New York stories.
Roth grew up on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1980s, where a liberal Jewish culture infused with European tastes was then breathing its last gasps. As the only child of a research doctor father and a musician mother, the precocious young Roth read Norse legends while lying on worn Oriental rugs, discussed foreign films at dinner, and obediently sat still through Schubert recitals in the vast family apartment that overlooked Central Park. This was the era of sitcoms like Family Ties and Full House, but in Roth’s apartment, the date was more like 1890, and the TV — an opiate of the masses — was definitely turned off. [Read the full article...]
A Son Searches for His Father’s Truth - In ‘The Scientists,’ Marco Roth Seeks Truth About His Family
The New York Times Book Review – September 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
“What really knocks me out,” Holden Caulfield said, “is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
Sometimes that’s true. More often, what really knocks me out is a book that, when I’m done reading it, I’m exceedingly glad the author is no friend of mine. I hope never to meet, nor phone, nor text him or her. The great ones only rarely seem like nice people.
I had J. D. Salinger on my mind while reading Marco Roth’s first book, an acute but sometimes overwrought memoir called “The Scientists: A Family Romance.” In part this is because Mr. Roth’s precocious Manhattan childhood reminded me of Salinger’s Glass family. In part it’s because Mr. Roth wanders the city a bit as Holden did in “The Catcher in the Rye.” [Read the full article...]
Father and Son - ‘The Scientists,’ a Memoir by Marco Roth
The New York Times Book Review – October 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
“The couch where my father died was also the couch where he taught me to read,” Marco Roth writes in “The Scientists.” “I might as well start there: my alphas and his omega joined by a piece of furniture.” The 12-foot-tall bookcases that loomed large in the Roth family’s Central Park West apartment posed a silent challenge to an only child eager to please his father, a hematologist with pitilessly highbrow cultural and intellectual standards. Eugene Roth Jr. was a difficult man: cold, withholding, judgmental, prone to rages. But he was also a generous tutor and giver of books, pressing Turgenev, Goncharov, Mann and others into his son’s hands. For the younger Roth, a founder of the literary journal n+1, revisiting these books became a way of decoding the troubling mysteries surrounding his father’s life and death, and provides one of the focal points for this affecting memoir.
Roth was not yet out of his teens when his father died in 1993 after a long struggle with AIDS. The story went that he had contracted H.I.V. through an errant needle jab in his sickle-cell anemia clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital. But in 1999, Eugene Roth’s sister, the author Anne Roiphe, wrote a memoir that strongly suggested Eugene may have been gay, and may have contracted AIDS “in the more usual way,” as she put it. For Marco Roth, this quasi revelation required a recasting of his own identity — if his aunt’s assumption was correct, he writes, “then my own existence was like a prop, a decoy to throw off nosy people like Anne” — as well as a startling invasion of privacy. [Read the full article...]
The Indigo Bird
An Erotic Novel by Max Markham
James Graveney, a young Major in a respectable regiment, is outwardly conventional. In private James is bisexual, with a strong urge for his own sex. Gay sex, however, is illegal in the Army, so he is discreet about this.
James’ world is turned upside-down when he meets Lieutenant Richard Finch. Richard is intelligent, charismatic and exceptionally handsome. He doesn’t mess around. He gets what he wants, and is completely unscrupulous about how he gets it. Richard will stop at nothing to achieve this, including Machiavellian deception and a cunning and brutal murder. James starts responding to Richard, cautiously at first, then gets swept along on the great love affair of his life.
The Indigo Bird is a rollercoaster of surprises set against backdrops varying from the jungles of Belize to London, the English countryside, and Ireland, and the scene is set for more shocks and adventures. [Read more...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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