There is a passage in Indignation, Philip Roth’s 29th novel (now in paperback), that is as heart-wrenching as any you’re likely to find in literature. In that scene, the protagonist’s mother asks her son to promise her he will stop seeing a very troubled young woman the boy is obsessed with, a girl who wears her emotional fragility on her wrist, where the scars of a suicide attempt are visible for all the world to see. The few pages of the novel devoted to the mother’s appeal to her son are a showcase of just how much a good writer can do with a very few deft brush strokes. A lifetime of hard-won understanding is to be found in that mother’s speech to her much-loved son, and even while she warns her son away from the girl she feels will ruin his life, she does so with deep compassion and empathy. This isn’t a perfect novel. The voice-from-beyond-the-grave conceit is creaky and creatively exhausted, and sometimes the main character’s voice grows tiresome, but when you’ve closed the pages of this book, the ideas Roth has raised will echo in memory and trouble your consciousness for days.