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The Scientists
Cover of The Scientists
The Scientists
A Family Romance
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This is a frank, intelligent, and deeply moving debut memoir.

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 pronounce deoxyribonucleic 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 growing up quickly 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.

This is a frank, intelligent, and deeply moving debut memoir.

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 pronounce deoxyribonucleic 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 growing up quickly 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.

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About the Author-
  • 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.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 18, 2012
    In this powerfully forlorn debut memoir, literary critic Roth mines the silence and shame he experienced growing up on Central Park West in the 1980s and ’90s as his scientist father died of AIDS. Never allowed to reveal to anyone at his elite Dalton School the truth of his father’s debilitating health, which the young only child was told had resulted from a freak needle accident with an infected patient in his father’s malaria research lab at Mount Sinai Hospital, the author tried to assume the normalcy enacted by his mother, a pianist and artists’ grants writer, yet the adolescent was haunted by his own sense of inadequacy and inability to save his father. Before he died in 1993, when the author was 19, the father, an old-school liberal Jewish New Yorker exquisitely educated in literature and the arts, had imparted some of his favorite books to his son, like Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh and Goncharov’s Oblomov: these became clues to Roth’s own unhappiness and dissatisfaction while in college at Oberlin, then Columbia, and provided precious emotional links with his father. The publication of his aunt Anne Roiphe’s memoir 1185 Park Avenue, essentially outing her brother (Roth’s father) as a homosexual, floored the author, and he tried to get at the truth, both from his aunt and from his mother, which eluded him. Roth’s work is a ferocious literary exercise in rage, despair, and artistic self-invention.

  • Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author "Marco Roth emerged from his privileged NYC childhood like one of Salinger's precocious Glass children, but Roth's family was ravaged by secrets, and from it he has written a gorgeous memoir no one will be able to put down—psychologically adroit, precise, moving, one of the best memoirs I've read in years."
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    Blackstone Publishing
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