Bob Schwartz

Dystopian Novels? Forget 1984. Read The Plot Against America: A Novel.

The Plot Against America

Among many famous dystopian novels (Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.), 1984 has currently risen to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. But the book to really read is Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America: A Novel (2004)

In this alternative history, one of the world’s biggest celebrities surprisingly becomes the Republican presidential nominee and defeats FDR in the 1940 election. Charles Lindbergh, a known Nazi sympathizer who wants to keep America from fighting Germany, is a friend of Hitler and an enemy of the Jews. And he is President of the United States.

Here are just a few reviews:

“A terrific political novel. . . . Sinister, vivid, dreamlike . . . creepily plausible. . . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Roth’s most powerfrul book to date. Confounding and illuminating, enraging and discomfiting, imaginative and utterly–terrifyingly–believable.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“It’s not a prophecy; it’s a nightmare, and it becomes more nightmarish–and also funnier and more bizarre–as is goes along. . . . [A] sinuous and brilliant book, with its extreme sweetness, its black pain, and its low, ceaseless cackle.” –The New Yorker

“Ambitious and chilling. . . a breath-taking leap of imagination. . . . The writing is brilliant.” –USA Today

“Intimately observed characters in situations fraught with society’s deepest, most bitter tensions. . . . Too ingeniously excruciating to put down.” –Newsweek

“Raises the stakes as high as a patriotic novel can take them. . . . Effortlessly, it seems, Roth has led us to suspend disbelief; then he makes us believe; then he suspends this belief and finally removes it. . . . A fabulous yarn.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

Wave of Bomb Threats at Jewish Community Centers: What Might It Mean?

USA Today reports:


Another wave of bomb threats swept through Jewish community centers across the nation Tuesday. Centers from Albany, N.Y., to Boulder, Colo., to White Fish Bay, Wis., to La Jolla, Calif., were among those evacuated. Fourteen centers in 10 states plus a Canadian province received threats, according to the JCC Association of North America.

“While the situation is developing, most have already received the all-clear from local law enforcement and resumed regular operations, with a heightened level of security,” David Posner, director of strategic performance at the New York-based organization, said in a statement.

Posner pointed out that Tuesday marked the third time in January that Jewish community centers have been targeted by bomb threats. On Jan. 18, 27 centers in 17 states received threats, he said. On Jan. 9, 16 centers in nine states were targeted, he added.

“We are concerned about the anti-semitism behind these threats,” Posner said.

It was not clear how many centers were affected.

Such scares are not rare, the Anti-Defamation League acknowledged. In the other January cases, officials allowed staff and children to return to the centers within a few hours.

“This unfortunately looks like the latest round,” Elise Jarvis, associate director for law enforcement outreach at the ADL, told USA TODAY. “So far the ones that were investigated were found not to be credible threats. But at the same time we need to take every one extremely seriously.”…

Jarvis would not theorize on the motive for the calls.

“It’s extremely disruptive; it can cause fear and panic,” she said. “It’s hard to know what motivates all this without knowing who did it.”

David Posner attributes it to anti-semitism. Elise Jarvis is more careful and circumspect, holding off until the perpetrators are known. Neither suggests that there is a marked increase in such incidents due to the current political climate.

They do not suggest that the environment is one in which pre-existing biases find a certain comfort and normalization. Not exactly encouragement or enabling, but something maybe close to that. They don’t suggest anything like that. But on a day when 14 Jewish community centers were threatened—thankfully empty threats—one might suggest something like that and might not be wrong.