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American Pastoral (1997)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The American Trilogy (1)

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6,989160964 (3.92)219
An ordinary man finds that his life has been made extraordinary by the catastrophic intrusion of history when, in 1968 his adored daughter plants a bomb that kills a stranger, hurling her father out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the ingenious American berserk.
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» See also 219 mentions

English (141)  Italian (7)  Spanish (5)  French (4)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
The vast majority of this book consists of the Swede’s reminiscing, questioning how he and his wife begat a murderer and how his life came to be so convoluted and tragic. The book moves slowly but methodically, never rambling; even the dragging parts contribute meaningfully to the plotline. Rarely had the Swede needed to question, dwell upon, or reminisce painfully, and so the self-doubt that plagues him during the time of his life that the book describes attacks with passion. His marriage to a precocious Irish-Catholic – frowned upon by his staunchly Jewish father – hadn’t just begun beautifully; it had also developed into an even more loving relationship than when they’d first gotten together. His ownership of a glove factory in downtown Newark had faced admirably the riots in the 1960s and the upheaval of manufacture to southeast Asia (as well as the decreasing popularity of gloves as a must-have fashion item). His relationship with his fierce, passionate father had never faltered in the way his brother’s relationship with their father had. And his own years of fatherhood, his years of helping rear a smart, passionate girl with a stutter, had never led him to anticipate her rage, her extreme actions, her disappearance. Nothing in his life up to this point – except for perhaps its perfection in itself – had given him cause to foresee the tragedy that now faced him each and every morning. Indeed, because of that perfection itself, because nothing had ever shaken him to the core, because nothing had ever cracked his self-confidence, the clouds of doubt spill open, raining questions and pain on his ill-prepared mind. His coping mechanism seems to be merely reminiscing; Roth only brings the Swede to desperation as the novel closes. Readers, however, may have less patience, less endurance. According to American ideas or natural law or something, no father or husband should ever have to answer – and least of all a father and a husband of such upstanding character, of such simple goldenness as the Swede himself. If all that the Swede has can be suddenly taken away, what value were all those good decisions and personal sacrifices. Roth’s character development – perhaps through his wordiness – fleshes out each person – not just the Swede – in the story with impressive depth. He creates a thought-life for not only the protagonist (or protagonists, both Skip in the beginning and the Swede throughout), but also for his daughter, his wife, and his mistress. (Perhaps also for his father and his neighbor – with whom his wife is having an affair – though as a female, I didn’t find those as relatable.) As the reader witnesses first-hand the Swede’s thoughtful downfall, the selfless Swede dwells upon how others have reacted to the recent events, considers their backgrounds and their paths to this moment. Again, Roth never brings him to desperation, to comparing his background and his life journey to the people around him. Roth gives us the story of a man who has never had to be desperate, and when the time comes, doesn’t even quite know how to be desperate, doesn’t quite know how to face the situation, doesn’t know how to cope. Again, Roth leaves the reader with questions; if the Swede’s perfect character, perfect simplicity hasn’t served him well in the moment when he most needed internal strength, what’s the benefit of it all anyway? ( )
  revatait | Feb 21, 2021 |
Overlong and repetitive, and ultimately boring. Nice use of language throughout, but just sooooo much restatement of actions and thoughts previously covered in enormous detail. ( )
  joecanas | Dec 10, 2020 |
Come un sasso gettato in uno stagno placido, ma al di sotto del quale si celano onde tumultuose, dilemmi irrisolti, forse anche l'atroce dubbio di non sapere chi si è in realtà, di aver inutilmente consumato la propria vita assecondando presunti desideri altrui o concedendosi a tradizione e conformismo sociale convinti che quella e quella solo, sia la vita da seguire, il sentiero verso la sola felicità possibile. Solo quando un evento giunge a destabilizzare questo fallace fragile castello di carte e Seymour, il protagonista, si trova a dover affrontare demoni dei quali la placida perfezione della vita che si era minuziosamente costruito nemmeno gli aveva fatto sospettare l'esistenza. ( )
  Carlomascellani73 | Oct 30, 2020 |
Betrayed by women
even golden boys aren't safe
author's cry for help? ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
I just didn't care. ( )
  BeauxArts79 | Jun 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionscalculated
Drazdauskienė, Rasasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellar, RudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellarová, LubaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dream when the day is thru, dream and they might come true, things never are as bad as they seem, so dream, dream, dream.
-Johnny Mercer from "Dream," popular song of the 1940s
the rare occurrence of the expected...
-William Carlos Williams, from "At Kenneth Bruke's Place," 1946
Dedication
To J. G.
First words
The swede.
Quotations
What he saw, in a scarecrow's clothes, stick-skinny as a scarecrow, was the scantiest farmyard emblem of life, a travestied mock-up of a human being, so meager a likeness to a Levov it could have fooled only a bird.
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An ordinary man finds that his life has been made extraordinary by the catastrophic intrusion of history when, in 1968 his adored daughter plants a bomb that kills a stranger, hurling her father out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the ingenious American berserk.

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