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Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

Goodbye, Columbus (1959)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,511383,706 (3.73)1 / 97



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English (34)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All (1)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
This was a great collection of fiction. I was amazed by the titular story and the other famous ones. Two of them missed the mark, but the rest were relevant, entertaining, and meaningful. Roth really surprised, and astounded me, with this collection and I think it largely stands as a reason why the writer is still revered in literary circles. I will look at other Roth works, to be sure, after being reassured with this one.

4 stars! ( )
  DanielSTJ | Jul 9, 2019 |
The title story of the collection, Goodbye, Columbus, is the most memorable. Neil Klugman is a low-paid librarian living with his aunt in New Jersey. He falls in love with Brenda, also a Jew, a vain girl from a more affluent family. The story charts a class conflict as Neil struggles to gain acceptance in a family more assimilated in American culture. It describes Neil's mundane working life; his coming-of-age love for Brenda; his experience at the wedding of his girlfriend's brother Ron; and finally the end of his relationship caused by the disapproval of Brenda's parents. I found this story the most enjoyable of the collection, possibly because it was one of the least forceful in promoting Roth's anti-religious stance. It reminds me of (in my opinion, underrated) On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, another poignant treatment of young love and its pitfalls.

I found two other stories highly readable: Defender of the Faith, where Roth portrays Jews as self-seeking, lying and manipulative; and Eli, the Fanatic, where a lawyer is hired by an assimilated Jewish community to confront the director of a newly established Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish religious institution).

Goodbye, Columbus - 5/5
The Conversion of the Jews - 1/5
Defender of the Faith - 4/5
Epstein - 2/5
You Can’t Tell a Man by the Song He Sings - 1/5
Eli, the Fanatic - 4/5 ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Maybe you saw the 1969 movie. Richard Benjamin was perfectly cast as boyfriend Neil, Ali McGraw a tad less so as Brenda. Jack Klugman is her doting Dad. At the end, there’s a big lover’s spat about the diaphragm, and why did Brenda leave it where Mom could find it. Remember?

Anyway, author Philip Roth died a month ago and I decided to read some of his stuff. “Goodbye Columbus” was a long (138 pages) short story and GC plus 5 other stories were published together, winning a National Book Award in 1960. I remember the story as a bit racy for its day, but at almost 50 years (the book, not me) the story doesn’t seem to hold up that well. The movie’s rating history tells it all – it was originally R and later re-rated PG.

Neil and Brenda meet at the pool; she asks him to hold her sunglasses as she dives; he’s in love before she takes her first bounce. She comes from money and is college bound. He graduated three years ago, lives with his aunt who cooks and cleans all the time, and he works at the library. Mom and Dad love Brenda and older brother Ron and will do anything for their offspring, even tolerate Neil at their dining table. They have a nice summer together.

Finally, a quote from Roth, which has nothing to do with the story, or maybe it does: “A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!”
RIP ( )
  maneekuhi | Jun 21, 2018 |
Entertaining. Romeo and Juliet in Jewish world 1950’s ( )
  jenniebooks | May 14, 2018 |
The earliest Roth I've read, and both similar to and different from the rest of his books. While the prose here is breathtakingly good, manages, as it does, to combine subtlety and waste-not-one-word economy in a way that doesn't embarrass the word "genius," can't really be called all that surprising. Philip Roth has the standing he does in American letters for a reason, after all. What surprised me most about this collection of stories was their sheer physicality. The story that gives the book its name is, I suppose, about the class tensions that develop in a relationship between a Newark Jewish boy of low economic standing and a girl whose family has done considerably better. But the story's also about hot summer weather, the chill of exclusive swimming pools, suburban luxury, and the thrill of one's first, intense romantic relationship. Having gotten to know Roth in his contemplative, if extremely fruitful, late period, the emphasis he places on bodily pleasure makes it seem that "Goodbye, Columbus" is the sort of story that only a young man could have written. Roth's portrayal of the wealth and ease of the suburbs is, in some places, highly ironic, but it's not without an appreciation for the things that money can buy, either. I also rather enjoyed his portrayal of Nathan and Brenda's relationship. Their love is as any other, but Roth makes it abundantly clear that that doesn't mean that they're always nice to each other: slightly cruel honesty also seems to have a place near the center of their relationship. It's a Yankee courtship, in its way, and also a very honest description of how people can treat each other in intimate emotional spaces.

It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that a talent for efficient cruelty also seems to have been a talent of the younger Roth himself. The last scenes of "Goodbye, Columbus" are devastating, but the last lines of some of the other stories, particularly "You Can't Tell A Man by the Song He Sings" and "Defender of the Faith" take just a sentence to cut right to the quick. Not that there aren't some stories here than hang a little looser: the tone throughout "Epstein" is comically tragic, or tragically comic, and then there's "Eli, the Fanatic." A bit of a departure for a writer that I mostly think of, for all of his marvelous writing, as a realist, this story is both more fantastical and, at the same time, to be a more obvious literary construction than most of Roth's work. Roth makes this story of a Jewish yeshiva populated with Holocaust survivors at odds with its modern, suburban Jewish neighbors seem believable without making it necessarily realistic, which is perhaps about as high a compliment as you can pay a writer. But it also seems to prefigure a lot of the contradictions about Jewish life in the United States that Roth would write about during the next fifty or so years. In some ways, that might be said of this entire book: in the same way that "Dubliners" sketched out the themes that Joyce would chase down for the rest of his writing life, Roth seems to be offering a map of the territory that was to explore in this short, early work. Characters walk difficult lines between assimilation and identity, and between identity and individuality, and in "Eli, the Fanatic," these hard choices are presented as unmistakably literal. Something tells me that Nathan Englander, whose work deals with the same themes using something like the same approach, once fell in love with it. If that's true, he can hardly be blamed. In an age when lots of story collections feel sort of padded, everything here feels essential and is, from this reader's perspective, just top-notch. A classic. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Feb 18, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I am always struck by the perfection of Goodbye, Columbus, however many times I read and teach it.
added by Shortride | editNational Book Foundation (Jul 14, 2009)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Polak, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zegerius, FieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother and my father
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The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679748261, Paperback)

Roth's award-winning first book instantly established its author's reputation as a writer of explosive wit, merciless insight, and a fierce compassion for even the most self-deluding of his characters.

Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories that range in tone from the iconoclastic to the astonishingly tender and that illuminate the subterranean conflicts between parents and children and friends and neighbors in the American Jewish diaspora.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Contains the title work in which a Radcliffe girl and a Rutgers boy learn about live; and includes five additional short stories by the award-winning American author." "'Goodbye, Columbus' is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories that range in tone from the iconoclastic to the astonishingly tender and that illuminate the subterranean conflicts between parents and children and friends and neighbors in the American Jewish diaspora."… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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