The Plotlines Against America

Philip Roth’s bestselling new novel, The Plot Against America, depicts a U.S. that elects Charles Lindbergh over F.D.R. in the 1940 presidential election. Lindbergh’s documented anti-Semitic stance is put into action, and the book goes great distances to retain believability. How? As always—with top-notch editing. ANDREW WOMACK reports on a series of writer-editor correspondence.


Love the first half! Love it, love it, love it! But I’ve got some concerns about what happens after, attached below… Let me know what you think of my edits.


P.S., Love it!

From your pages 194–195:

Two years down the line, with Hitler’s swastika flying from London’s houses of Parliament, the Rising Sun flying over Sydney, New Delhi, and Peking, and Lindbergh having been elected to the presidency for another four years…

Ed.: Great stuff! But can’t we save something for the sequel?

From the top of page 217:

…I had not reached the age of desire, was blinded, of course, by the word “aunt,” still found the random little stiffening of my acorn of a penis the puzzling nuisance it had always been, and so the delight that I took nestling into the curvaceousness of my mother’s thirty-one-year-old sister, a tiny, lively Thumbelina seemingly timid in no way and formed after the model of hills and apples…

Ed.: Now this is exactly what I meant when I said we needed more crowd pleasers. And way to go straight to your cache, too! One question: Can the brother sleep with the aunt?

At the bottom of page 253:

…despite the handsome boy’s air of self-assurance, he had no more idea than anyone else why he took the bait. Lindbergh’s Jewish tobacco farmer discovers breasts, and suddenly he turns up as just another teenager.

I, too, would finally shrug that monstrous influence of Lindbergh, but only years later, during a layover at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where I would attain a high score of 425,500 on the Galaga machine at the “Lucky Lindy” arcade.

Ed.: Sorry, but unless you registered your score as “ACE” or “AAA,” our fact-checkers dispute this claim. Recommendation: Strike.

From page 272:

…the murder of a mere candidate for the presidency was unprecedented in America…it wasn’t until twenty-six years after Winchell’s assassination that a second presidential candidate would be gunned down—that was New York’s Democratic senator Robert Kennedy, fatally shot in the head after winning his party’s California primary on Tuesday, June 4, 1968.

Ed.: So… if you’re saying that even after Lindbergh ascends to the presidency, even after all this Nazi business occurs, that Kennedy still gets shot… aren’t you kind of giving away the ending by saying that history is thus back to “normal” by ‘68?

WAIT I’VE GOT AN IDEA: Trade Kennedy for Zuckerman.

In the middle of page 301:

But then it was over. The nightmare was over. Lindbergh was gone and we were safe, though never would I be able to revive that unfazed sense of security first fostered in a little child by a big, protective republic and his ferociously responsible parents.


Ed.: Nope, no good—we need another chapter. You remember that short story about the road trip you sent me about a year ago? How about we change all the characters’ names and plug that in right here?

Then on page 327:

…[These] have been matters of controversy for over half a century, though by now a far less impassioned and wide-spread controversy than when, for some thirty-odd weeks in 1946…My Life Under Lindbergh remained at the top of the American bestseller lists.

Such a feat for a bestseller so controversial would not be seen for another 58 years, when
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth would sit atop the list for 70+ weeks, inspiring the New York Review of Books to call it “the single finest moment in literature.” The screenplay, also by Roth, would eventually go on to claim the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Ed.: This reads uneven.


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack