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American Pastoral by Philip Roth

American Pastoral (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Philip Roth

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5,484122791 (3.93)172
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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English (110)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  All languages (121)
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
Tedious is a good description, uninspired rambling is another. Didn't work in the 1st 10%, 2nd 10% was not any better. And the last chapter ? What is the connection here? ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
At the beginning of the novel, Nathan Zuckerman, a famous author, is reminiscing about his high school days in a mostly Jewish New Jersey suburb as his forth-fifth class reunion approaches. As a student, he was awed by Seymour “the Swede” Levov, his classmate’s older brother and the best athlete in the school. At the reunion, he finds out that the Swede’s daughter was accused of committing a serious crime in protest of the Vietnam War and that the Swede never fully recovered from that shock. The Swede becomes the narrator at this point, although it’s nearly impossible to tell whether he’s really telling his side of the story or whether Zuckerman is just imagining what might have happened. Either way, the novel becomes an exploration of whether it’s really possible for anyone to achieve the American dream.

I thought this book started out promising but ended up frustrating and boring. I found a quite a few good quotes at the beginning of the novel that made me think I knew what it was about, and then Roth switched gears on me. The narrator switch about a quarter of the way through was frustrating because I never did figure out whether I was actually in the Swede’s head or whether Zuckerman was just taking the small part of the story that he knew and turning it into his own novel. I kept waiting for Roth to switch back to the original narrator at the end, but he never did. Also, the Swede’s constant rambling about his feelings and insecurities got really repetitive and boring after a while. Roth could have shortened the book considerably. This is the third book I’ve read by Roth, and I’m beginning to think that he’s just not my cup of tea.

Some quotes:

“It was one of those things that get torn out of you and thrust into oblivion just because they didn’t matter enough. And yet what I had missed completely took root in Ira and changed his life. So you don’t have to look much further than Ira and me to see why we go through life with a generalized sense that everybody is wrong except us. And since we don’t just forget things because they don’t matter but also forget things because they matter too much—because each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthine windings are an identification mark no less distinctive than a fingerprint—it’s no wonder that the shards of reality one person will cherish as a biography can seem to someone else who, say, happened to have eaten some ten thousand dinners at the very same kitchen table, to be a willful excursion into mythomania. But then nobody really bothers to send in their fifty bucks for a forty-fifth high school reunion so as to turn up and stage a protest against the other guy’s sense of the-way-it-was; the truly important thing, the supreme delight of the afternoon, is simply finding that you haven’t yet made it onto the “In Memoriam” page.”

“Such a sensational thing, in his life certainly—even twenty-seven years later, how could anybody not know or have forgotten?”

“…the story he had to tell me was this one, the revelation of the interior life that was unknown and unknowable…” ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Without being bleak, this book examines the ultimate heartbreak of a parent. A monstrous child that steals not only the hope of any future, but tarnishes any victories of the past. This is a phenomenal book. It achieves an intoxicating depth, without any pretentiousness or artifice. I am in awe of this book. Roth captures the waves of thought that rock our inner mind- our self-justification, our flawed logic, and our vulnerability. There is a simple truthfulness in his style. He gives us an impotent hero - a man that can do anything, but is crippled by the love and optimism that defines him ( )
  Alidawn | Jan 16, 2016 |
3.5 stars ( )
  Lynsey2 | Jan 15, 2016 |
American Pastoral by Roth
4 stars
The “Swede” Levov seems to have the perfect life. Son of Jewish Immigrants he is a varsity athlete, marries Miss New Jersey, and takes over the family business. The Swede represents the “perfect” example of assimilation into American Culture. He is the all-American hero representing the post-World War II era in the U.S. But when his daughter becomes a radical anti-war protester and kills the local owner of their small town general store, the perfect façade starts to crumble. American Pastoral is at heart a commentary on the American Dream and the dangers of assimilation.
This book packs an emotional and intellectual punch. I enjoyed the writing style and the brilliant way in which the author was able to build up a world then slowly poke holes into this world. The contrast that he creates between the idyllic “American pastoral” and the violent, crushing modern world is impressive. Roth decimates the notion of American innocence and attacks conventionality with a passion, and he does so by eliciting a rollercoaster of emotions in his readers. There are beautiful, dreamlike descriptions of Levov’s world (rolling pastures, white picket fences) contrasted with the fury infused scenes between Levov and his brother, his daughter, and Rita Cohen.

It took me a while to get into this book and I didn’t find the initial portion too engaging (it took me a week to get past the first 30 pages), but once I got into the heart of Levov’s life, I couldn’t stop reading. This was my first experience with Roth and it was a good one.

He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach – that it makes no sense. And when that happens the happiness is never spontaneous again. It is artificial and, even then, bought at the price of an obstinate estrangement from oneself and one’s history.

You wanted Miss America? Well, you’ve got her, with a vengeance – she’s your daughter! You wanted to be a real American jock, a real American Marine, a real American hotshot with a beautiful Gentile babe on your arm? You longed to belong like everybody else to the United States of America? Well, you do now, big boy, thanks to your daughter. The reality of this place is right up in your kisser now.

Yes, alone we are, deeply alone, and always, in store for us, a layer of loneliness even deeper. There is nothing we can do to dispose of that. No, loneliness shouldn’t surprise us, as astonishing to experience as it may be. You can try yourself inside out, but all you are then is inside out and lonely instead of inside in and lonely. My stupid, stupid Merry dear, stupider even that your stupid father, not even blowing up buildings helps. It’s lonely if there are buildings and it’s lonely if there are buildings and it’s lonely if there are no buildings. There is no protest to be lodged against loneliness⎯not all the bombing campaigns in history have made a dent in it. The most lethal of manmade explosives can’t touch it. Stand in awe not of Communism, my idiot child, but of ordinary, everyday loneliness.”
( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 110 (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.
-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
To J. G.
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The swede.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:32 -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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