Goodbye, Columbus : and five short stories

by Philip Roth

Paper Book, 1993




New York : Vintage Books, 1993.


Fiction. Literature. Short Stories. HTML: National Book Award Winner Philip Roth's brilliant career was launched when the unknown twenty-five-year-old writer won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship for a collection that was to be called Goodbye, Columbus, and which, in turn, captured the 1960 National Book Award. In the famous title story, perhaps the best college love story ever written, Radcliffe-bound Brenda Patimkin initiates Neil Klugman of Newark into a new and unsettling society of sex, leisure, and loss. Over the years, most of the other stories have become classics as well..

Media reviews

I am always struck by the perfection of Goodbye, Columbus, however many times I read and teach it.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DanielAlgara
Why have I never picked up a Philip Roth book before? In these pages were honesty and beauty and strong voices with things that actually HAPPEN. Not like those dumb as faux literary magazines (that's right Ploughshares and Tin House and the rest of you idiots) whose mind-numbing stories ramble on
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and on until finally, nothing happens. I spit on your nonsense!

But here, oh here, is fun and perfection and a goddamn point! Highly, HIGHLY recommended. For everybody.
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LibraryThing member madhuri_agrawal
After seeing his books on the reading list of some people whose reading tastes I hold in good esteem, I finally picked up my first book from venerable Philip Roth. Incidentally, Goodbye Columbus was also the author's first book and earned him significant respect and a National Award.The book is a
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collection of a novella and 5 other short stories- all of them dealing with the lives of Jewish people in modern America.

The book is named after the novella, which is a love story of sorts, taut with the pulls of class distinction and the couples' different ways of life. The young couple, from accross this class divide, struggle to have a normal courtship, but a power tussle continues to strain their relations. The relationship is further pressured by the conservative Jewish sentiments. Perhaps if I had never watched hindi movies with the same cliched theme, I might have been able to appreciate the story better. But it turns out that I have grown up on such movies like an average Indian, and find nothing remarkable in Mr. Roth's tale.

However, the five stories that follow almost make-up for the interest that the novella could not generate.Roth has outlined the confusion of a Jew in a modern society very well, sometimes by exaggeration. Particularly noteworthy stories were "The Conversion of the Jews," "Defender of the Faith," and "Eli, the Fanatic." Mr. Roth was widely criticised by the Jewish community who did not find the portrayal of certain Jewish characters in the book very appealing, especially in his story "Defender of faith", where a trio of devout jew draftees in the army exploit a Jewish sergeant on religious grounds.
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LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Wish I'd read this before I read 'The Human Stain' or the first Zuckerman novels, boy do I. None of the works in this book are flawless; unless you like prose on the order of "our dripping wet skin sizzled as we reclined luxuriatingly on the sunbaked plastic covers of the perfectly reclining
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chairs," you'll roll your eyes occasionally. But unlike other Roth works, he has here a) a theme other than himself or sex; b) the intention to think through rather than pronounce upon said theme. When he's good, Roth makes me think 'ah, yes, men are like that' (never, of course, 'women are like that.') When he's bad, he makes me think, 'dear god, is Roth really like that?' 'Columbus,' 'Defender of the Faith,' and 'Eli, the Fanatic' made me think the former. 'The Conversion of the Jews,' and 'Eli,' to a certain extent, are way beyond anything else of Roth's I've read, beyond even my two stock thoughts. 'Epstein' makes me think my 'Roth is like that' thought, but I guess it's worth reading.
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LibraryThing member jeffome
Loved this book. Easy writing style that catches you immediately and keeps the pages turning. Could also oddly relate well to the characters, even though I am not Jewish, which is a prevalent theme in this book and subsequent stories. I may have even liked the additional stories better than the
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main piece which i thoroughly enjoyed. This is my first Roth and I was pleasantly surprised.
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
I read this as a teenager so I can't really remember it that well; recall that I enjoyed it at the time.
LibraryThing member garcher84
I thought this was ok. After hearing of Roth referenced as one of the greatest writers of his generation, and this noted as his quintessential work, I decided to check it out, and my initial reaction in all honesty was boredom. To me it appeared to be a watered-down version of "Catcher in the Rye,"
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and it didn't seem to translate as well to modern times as J.D. Salinger's work did. I wasn't mad that I read it, but by no means will I add it to my list of books to tell friends about.
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LibraryThing member ametralladoras
I feel that Phillip Roth has a good feel for human actions and emotions. Writes in a raw and personable way through the lens of a Jewish American. Definitely questions faith and humanity in all of the stories. Don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much without the little knowledge I have on
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Jewish American culture (took a semester of Jewish Studies). Definitely going to be reading more books by Roth.
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LibraryThing member spounds
Not my favorite Roth, but easy to listen to nonetheless. I've heard people ask before whether Jews are a race or a religion. In a way, each of the six stories in this collection explores that same question. It's the juxtaposition between practicing and non-practicing Jews, or assimilated and
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non-assimilated, or rich Jews and poor Jews, that drives each one. It's an interesting area to explore, but I think it takes on even more meaning given that these stories were written only 15 years or so after the end of WWII. What did it mean to be a Jew at that time? As the two sides in "Eli, the Fanatic" argue, do we want to set ourselves apart or do we want to become like everyone else? Each of these six stories takes on that question from a different vantage point in each story and in the end the whole is better than any of the particular parts.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
842 Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, by Philip Roth (read 17 Mar 1966) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1960) This is Roth's first published book, and consists of six works, the title work being a novella. As I recall, outside of being surprised by the frankness of some of the
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content, I found the stories fresh and of interest.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Neil Klugman is a 23 year old man living with his self martyred aunt and uncle in Newark, New Jersey while his asthmatic parents convalesce in Arizona. "Goodbye, Columbus" is told from his point of view and could be seen as a Jewish American coming-of-age story about Neil's summer romance with
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wealthy, snobbish Brenda Patimkins. It is closer to the truth to say "Goodbye, Columbus" is a commentary on class. Neil and Brenda's socioeconomic differences create subtle tensions between the couple until they discover their relationship is built on lust rather than love. This is most apparent when Neil says, "Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them - at least I didn't, to phrase them was to invent them and own them" (p 19).
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LibraryThing member Sandydog1
Quintessential Roth, ie, plenty of neurotic Jewish Americans. Settings are somewhere in the late 1940s to late 1950s. I found these stories to be much less interesting than say Everyman or Indignation.
LibraryThing member ludovicofischer
Probably not Roth's best work.
LibraryThing member scgervais
Very Jewish - kind of silly - I couldn't finish.
LibraryThing member .Monkey.
I'm not a fan of short stories in general but the title piqued my curiosity and so I went for it anyway. Quite enjoyable read, Roth's style is very much to my tastes.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Roth's first book. Well-crafted, no doubt, with loving attention to the writing style. The short stories were of varying calibers, but some showed the earliest signs of his later masterpieces.
LibraryThing member nandadevi
Goodbye Columbus. I use Roth's 'Sabbath's Theatre' as a doorstop in my toilet. I haven't thought of a use for his 'Goodbye Columbus'. Something might occur to me. I know that this will offend fans of Roth, or even people who care for and respect books, but I have to say that I believe that everyone
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has to draw that line between trash and literature somewhere. And in this case - for me - Roth falls short. It's not the introspection, the obsession with the self, or the angst that are at fault, but it's the complete absence of anything beyond that. But I'll allow that perhaps it's a lack of appreciation of Roth's talents in other directions. It's true that if I can't see them I can't appreciate them, but all the same they might be there. I can't recommend this, but I can wish readers 'good luck'. And suggest they catch the film. Many a bad book has made a good movie...
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LibraryThing member winedrunksea
Only the novella but that was ENOUGH.
LibraryThing member jenniebooks
Entertaining. Romeo and Juliet in Jewish world 1950’s
LibraryThing member maneekuhi
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
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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!”
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LibraryThing member jigarpatel
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
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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
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LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
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
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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!
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LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
Philip Roth won the 1960 National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, a collection of five short stories and the title novella. He went on to create an incredible body of work – building on many themes introduced in Goodbye, Columbus – publishing 30 books to date with another on
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the way.

In the main novella, hero Neil Klugman is home in Newark after two years in the army. He has finished college, is working in the library, and lives with his Aunt Gladys and Uncle Max in the old neighborhood. When Neil falls in love with Brenda Patimkin, the prototypical Jewish American Princess whose family has moved to the suburbs up the hill, Roth begins the examination of American Jewish life that continues through many of his books.

The title is a reference to Ohio State University Seniors saying goodbye to college, goodbye to Columbus, Ohio, but it also signifies growing up and leaving youth behind. Neil and Brenda’s relationship demonstrates the intensity of first love, as well as the disillusionment and emotional tempering that result.

The five short stories that follow vary in force and effect. . . .

Full review posted on Rose City Reader>.
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LibraryThing member antao
“Who knows what is and is not proof to the crotchety ladies and chainstore owners who sit and die on Boards of Education?”

In "Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories" by Philip Roth

Favourite line from a Roth novel ("Sabbath's Theatre"): "tits...tits....tits...tits..." (okay, I admit, you have
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to read it in context).

After two years of Roth’s passing, I finally somehow managed to unearth my 40+ year old, dog-eared (make that bassett hound-eared) copy of “Goodbye, Columbus” and re-read it just before each page turned into confetti in my hands and I remembered why I liked him so much all the way through “Letting Go”, “When She Was Good” and “Portnoy's Complaint” - the 1960's. It took “Our Gang”, “The Breast” and “The Great American Novel” - in other words, fully three more of Philip Roth's books before I accepted a much needed parting of the literary ways. It's hard to give up on a writer you liked from the very start - sort of like falling out of love, but not wanting to accept that absence of feeling. In the beginning I found Roth to be demonstrably alive - his prose crackled with energy. But for me it was a case of diminishing returns. I know there are Book People here who loved his work - fine with me - he had no need of my further approbation. Philip Roth wrote one of the funniest novels I have ever read - I can pay him no higher compliment.

Of course, not getting Roth isn't a crime, it is a different taste. This implication that writers somehow have some superior moral insight the great unwashed don't have, is a nonsense. Roth's writing is very bourgeois and I understand why bourgeois people like him. I keep buying his books but I'm too lazy to read them. I read “Portnoy's Complaint” years ago and liked it. I am trying to get through some of my old books at the moment.
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LibraryThing member Terosauras
I read this one for the first time in College in 1991. It was awesome, really amazing writing. It's a short story so you can read it all in a short afternoon.


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