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American Pastoral by Philip Roth

American Pastoral (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Philip Roth

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4,979None910 (3.96)129
Title:American Pastoral
Authors:Philip Roth
Info:Vintage (1998), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997)

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» See also 129 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Philip Roth's style was never my favorite. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Philip Roth's style was never my favorite. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Here's what I hope is true: Philip Roth wrote this book, narrated by 'Nathan Zuckerman,' in order to criticize the hero-worship to which Zuckerman/Roth is liable at times, as evidenced in the first of the Zuckerman novels. He wrote it to reveal the stupidity, self-satisfaction and arrogance of baby-boomer generation Americans, who think everything was great when they were kids, think everything's crap now, and think this is the fault of everybody else. He particularly wrote it to show how extremely rich white men of a certain age treat women and non-white people and usually also other rich white men.

Here's what I'm pretty sure is true: Philip Roth wrote this book because he's really sad that The American Dream turned out to be not so perfect. This imperfection can be blamed on women (e.g., the women in this novel are, in turn: adulterers, 'cold,' over-intellectual, terrorists, mentally unstable, or, in very rare cases, lucky enough to be the mothers of rich white men (wives, on the other hand, are all adulterers). It can also be blamed on black people.

Other reviewers have managed to show their rage at this book by bringing up an individual passage, and they are, indeed, all rage-inducing. My most rage-inducing passage involves the main character regretting that the U.S. dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki... because, thanks to that, he never got to fight in world war II. Yep. For some perspective on this, keep in mind that 9/11 had 3000 casualties. That's 20 times fewer than the smallest estimated number of casualties in the *less* deadly Nagasaki bombing. That is how self-absorbed Nathan Zuckerman/The Swede/Philip Roth is.

Luckily, this is all told within a very witty narrative frame: none of this stuff actually happens even in the novel. It's just a narrative written by the narrator, the aforementioned Mr Zuckerman. He's explicitly making it up. And therefore, nothing is sincere and everything is open to question. Eye roll.

Of interest, on the other hand, is the way Roth combines his 'James-lite' style with his 'Portnoy-rant' style here. That would make the book worth reading, except that he manages to get rid of both the Portnoy humor and the James self-awareness. So it kind of ends up reading like an emo song composed by a forty year old man who hasn't heard any music since 1943.

Despite all this, and despite the fact that the last 100 pages are completely superfluous (why not tack on another 100 about how - after his daughter turned out to be nothing like him and his wife cheated on him and he dies of cancer - well, also, his dog died?), the book is worth reading for a couple of striking scenes.

But best American novel of the last 25 years? Not even on the long-list. Someone needs to do a study of how Roth became the great American novelist of the late nineties. Is it just because the former candidate for this position started writing dreck (Updike)? Was it the just the self-serving conservatism of the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama years? That's an essay I want to read. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
This is a really great book, and definitely the best I've read by Philip Roth. There's some sort of Death of a Salesman link here.

It's somehow fitting that I thought of my dad when I read this book, and then after I gave it to him (twice by accident!!) he read it and liked it, but looked at it in a totally different way than I did. ( )
  tercat | Nov 19, 2013 |
Not sure. Loved lots of it; some bits not at all. ( )
  bontley | Aug 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drazdauskienė, Rasasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drazdauskienė, Rasasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellar, RudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellarová, LubaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dream when the day is thru, dream and they might come true, things never are as bad as they seem, so dream, dream, dream.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375701427, Paperback)

Philip Roth's 22nd book takes a life-long view of the American experience in this thoughtful investigation of the century's most divisive and explosive of decades, the '60s. Returning again to the voice of his literary alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, Roth is at the top of his form. His prose is carefully controlled yet always fresh and intellectually subtle as he reconstructs the halcyon days, circa World War II, of Seymour "the Swede" Levov, a high school sports hero and all-around Great Guy who wants nothing more than to live in tranquillity. But as the Swede grows older and America crazier, history sweeps his family inexorably into its grip: His own daughter, Merry, commits an unpardonable act of "protest" against the Vietnam war that ultimately severs the Swede from any hope of happiness, family, or spiritual coherence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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