American Pastpral

by Philip. Roth

Paperback, 1997

Call number




HOUGHTON,MIFFLIN & CO. BOSTON 1997 (1997), Edition: First Edition


Fiction. Literature. American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American's rise and fall�??of a strong, confident master of social equilibrium overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder. Seymour "Swede" Levov�??a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark glove factory�??comes of age in thriving, triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s. Not even the most private, well-intentioned citizen, it seems, gets to sidestep the sweep of history. With vigorous realism, Roth takes us back to the conflicts and violent transitions of the 1960s. This is a book about loving�??and hating�??America. It's a book about wanting to belong�??and refusing to belong�??to America. It sets the desire for an American pastoral�??a respectable life of space, calm, order, optimism, and achievement�??against the i… (more)

Media reviews

Bewundernswert ist die Detailversessenheit und die akribische Genauigkeit, mit der Roth sein Pastiche malt. Sie macht die Besessenheit des Erzählers, mit der er die faszinierende Gestalt des Schweden umkreist, eindrucksvoll und wahrhaftig. Eine Frage aber bleibt: Wieviel amerikanische
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Idyllenmalerei, auch wenn sie im Dienste der Demontage eben dieser Idylle steht, erträgt der nicht-amerikanische Leser? Stellenweise geht Roth zu weit - er geht zu sehr ins Detail. Wenn er sowohl Vater als auch Sohn Levov in ihrer Begeisterung für das Handschuhgewerbe beschreibt, läßt er auch uns bis in die unbedeutendsten Einzelheiten an diesem Gewerbe, seiner Geschichte und seinen Fachbegriffen teilhaben. Und von welchem anderen Roman kann man schon lernen, was ein "Schichtel" ist?
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User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
The sad downfall of a serious man. Meet Seymour "Swede" Levov, who is living the postwar culmination of the American Dream, but is still pleased to meet you and really cares about what you have to say. The Swede is running the multimillion-dollar glove business bequeathed him by his father, married
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to a former Miss New Jersey, living in a 170-year-old house in Old Rimrock, New Jersey, and the father of a girl named Merry who was born for--forced into, judging by the name--joy. Joy is their birthright as Americans and the only fitting life for a sports hero and big man on campus, a Marine drill instructor, the scion of hardworking Jewish immigrants whose unstinting pursuit of the middleclass dream has come somehow to fruition in the blond WASPiness that gives Seymour the nickname Swede. He is omnicompetent, omnidiligent, omnirighteous, and omnikind. And his family is lovely.

What on Earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?

Only that their American Pastoral is bought at the expense of the "indigenous American Berserk", and their touchpoints--God, country, the conscientious capitalist, rock-ribbed decency and the blameless refusal to develop their own depths--cannot possibly withstand the physical stresses of the geopolitical, psychosocial, and sexual sexual sexual tensions brought home to roost by the old techniques of control finally hitting hyperspeed. Vietnam confronts the Swede Levovs of America with their hypocrisy, and they can swallow the blow--it's in their nature to be happy, to be okay.

But the children can't. Not the children of this world of boundless promise. They are entirely incapable of accepting the price in hate and blood and neo-imperialism. Too spoiled, you know. Never got the chance to work out their fucked-up guilt with a world war. It all unravels with the children. And so Swede Levov's child starts to stutter, starts to crack, and then she goes and blows up a mailbox and a decent country doctor and her family and the suburban dream and the promise of infinite growth. And that's where this story begins--in human hell.

And the scary thing is that it's not just the historical moment. With deftness, Roth marshals repressed sexuality and miscegenation and being a Jew in America and the tension between the social contract and building something for yourself and . . . the simple decline of age, and just overwhelms the reader with these shockwaves of chaos. There is so much chaos. And with tenderness he embraces his poor Levovs and says, How could they have been other than what they were? And with burning sardonic eyes he says, They were doomed from the start.

I'll never forget that reunion moment with Nathan Zuckerman, the narrator, and the girl who wouldn't let him take off her bra in high school. They fall into each other's arms in tears and she says she should have let him do it and you think, We're all just humans in this together and all we can do is cling to each other in the valley of the shadow of death. And for me--I was no sports hero, but in my own quiet Canadian way I've skirted the valley of the shadow of golden-boyness and the gift for decency and joy that is the result of everything coming easily. And like the Swede, ignored the darkness under this blond life for so long, the need to support and underpin your loved ones and friends and take their pain into you, the impossibility of coming to terms with your own ineffectuality in the face of the chaos, the chaos, and the inability to hate anyone for it except yourself for failing . . . how does the man built to help and care come to terms with the irreducible kernel of satanic rage?

I don't want to end like Roth does, with a question. I want to blink back tears and proceed on an assumption, and not an integrated grand-narrative assumption like the Swede's, which the slightest shock--or tiniest mortal blow--can bring down. I look at the women who dominate the denouement here--the demonic Marcia Umanoff, the sunny, hollow Jessie Orcutt, and the speech pathologist Sheila Salzman, whose role in the plot is pivotal and whose actions have a complex mix of good and ill effects upon which no summary judgment can be passed. But what she does? She doesn't run or hide or lie. She thinks, and resolves, and tries.

I'm gonna be a speech pathologist too. But broader than that: I think to be a healer is the highest human calling. To heal the specific ill is a prayer against the unhealable infinitude of human pain.
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LibraryThing member chicklit
I am not okay with giving Philip Roth one star, after all he wrote Ghost Writer and a bunch of other good books. This one, however, did nothing for me. The prose was too dense. The story too plodding. I'm sure it's an amazing book, but not one I'm ready to read yet.
LibraryThing member Bookmarque
I'm so glad this wasn't my 2nd attempt at Philip Roth's work, it would have put me off him forever. It must be a generational thing because I didn't get it in the way I'm sure someone my parent's age or my grandparent's age would have. This is not to say I didn't understand it; I did, but the way
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it was presented was comical and trying in the extreme. It made me feel pity for that generation in their locked in state; unable to flow or to grow with change, wanting everything the same for ever and ever.

Waaahh, my daughter didn't turn out exactly like me. Waaahh, the American Dream is dead. Waaah, politicians are unscrupulous. Waaahhh, war isn't fun. Waaahh, why can't everyone just love and respect 'the greatest generation' and not make us responsible for anything? Waaahh, why can't I be a Jewish WASP? Waaahhh. Ugh. What a horrible follow up read for me on the heels of The Human Stain. I won't give up on Mr. Roth, but this novel was so long, drawn out and simultaneously self-pitying and self-congratulatory that I had to force myself to finish it.
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LibraryThing member LynnB
This is another book about the American Dream, about the perfect family life that falls apart. But, it's written by Phillip Roth, whose way with words, and ability to develop complex, interesting characters and make you care about them, so it is worth reading.

The high school athlete/hero (Swede
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Levov), who marries Miss New Jersey, who runs a successful business and lives in his dream home has a less-than-perfect daughter (Merry). She stutters. She's overweight. And, she becomes a violent anti-Vietnam War protestor. After she blows up the local post office, killing the town doctor, and goes into hiding, her mother breaks down and her father obsesses around what he could have done to prevent the tragedy his family now lives.

This is a deeply moving book; one of Mr. Roth's best. It examines parenting, not only in the case of Swede and Merry, but also the relationship between Swede and his own father (Lou) and between Swede and his brother.
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LibraryThing member bartt95
Good Lord, what a novel. Funny how you can read hundreds of books and still be utterly blown away by a single one.

Summarizing this would be like making a movie adaption out of it (which, God knows how, they did). Imagine all pain, anger and confusion infused into one man and his family, imagine
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everything going wrong for someone who worked hard for the exact opposite, who deserved it perhaps least of all.

Also, Roth is a language-magician.
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LibraryThing member vegetrendian
Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer prize, this is my favourite by the prolific and controversial Roth. Here he is writing again as Nathan Zuckerman in the first of a loosely conceived trilogy on modern American life (with “I Married a Communist” and “The Human Stain”). Roth is playing a bit here
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since he has his narrator actually just guessing about the story of an old acquaintance who has had his life thrown through a loop at some point. Zuckerman picks up on what is left out of his friend’s story and creates his own narrative, using “the Swede”, as he is called, and the smooth family life that the charming athlete with the beauty queen wife is supposed to have, as a basis for a condemnation of American values, and the emptiness of the so-called perfect life.
Except for a tedious scene in a glove factory, this book is superbly executed and timely. It deals predominantly with the Swede’s young daughter and her opposition to the war (Vietnam), her subsequent trouble with the law, and her estrangement from her family. It is a dark picture of what can happen to a sensitive child with empathy for a faraway land being bombed to smithereens by her country. This empathy gets misplaced because it is so repressed. She has nowhere healthy to express herself and so she ends up destroying her family and her own life. Leaving her a confused and scared child out on her own.
Roth succeeds in never descending into preaching or pitying and the story is told with a wonderful sense of touch and pacing. In my opinion this is Roth at his finest. I read Portnoy’s Complaint when I was in my early twenties and felt little affinity for it. Roth did not seem to able to paint an unlovable character with any pathos. But I had heard such good things about his later works (particularly this and “The Human Stain”) that I persisted, and I am glad that I did. Both works (and this one is the superior of the two in my mind) were wonderfully written with an eye for detail and character that brings the stories to life. Both are told in an almost documentorial fashion despite Roth’s use of Zuckerman as narrator. They are small slices of tragedy in modern day America beautifully rendered. This is a strong compelling book, and I recommend it highly.

If you liked this you might like…/ If you liked… you might like this

“Unless” by Carol Shields

“The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood

“The Human Stain” by Philip Roth
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LibraryThing member MiserableLibrarian
The story of Swede, a fourth-generation American Jew who discovers, in his mid-40s, that his world has been radically different than he imagined. Beginning with the shock of his only daughter’s bombing of the general store in protest of the war in Vietnam, the Swede gradually learns that much of
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his life has been an illusion. Despite the fact that he has done everything right, has worked hard, and has been a good person, the Swede finds that he is not immune to suffering and that life can often be frighteningly different than it appears. Long passages of self-introspection and endless questioning make for a slow story in parts; the first hundred pages were especially slow-going.
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LibraryThing member delphica
(#35 in the 2004 Book Challenge)

Okay, I posted before that I've been well nigh enchanted with my discovery of Philip Roth. I enjoyed this book A LOT, especially because it had a lot of layers of fiction. It's a novel, and the first person narrator is a writer, who runs into someone he knew as a
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child, and starts speculating on this person's life since those days, at which point the book turns to this person as the protagonist, who spends a lot of time speculating about the actions of his daughter, who has been missing for several years. There's not too much action in the story, all things considered, it's mostly that internal, examing monologue that not everyone likes in a book, but I've always had a soft spot for it. Oh, the plot of the book is that there is this very typical, average American family that falls apart after the daughter is involved with one of those Weathermen-type bombings to protest the war in Viet Nam, and then disappears.

Keeping with my One True Thing standard for very good books, the best True Thing in American Pastoral is a theme that Roth sums up with this line: "People think of history in the long term, but history, in fact, is a very sudden thing."
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LibraryThing member berthirsch
This is the story of the perfectly acculturated, assimilated jewish male of the 1940's-1950's who, when faced with the turmoil of America in the 60's, sees his perfect world come falling apart.

Perhaps Roth is saying that this Jewish "superman" whose athletic prowess, upper middle class comforts,
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perfect shiksa (gentile) wife depict him as having made it in the eyes of all the other jewish kids who grew up with and worshipped him...perhaps it is all illusion and that the curses of life that befall us all hit him so hard that it destroys all he has accomplished.

The adored son, Swede Levov, who can do no wrong, enters his father's business and it appears that the only act of independence he can muster in standing up to his father's dominance is to marry out of his religion; the lower middle-class Catholic beauty pageant queen, Dawn Dwyer. When confronted with the horrors of what his daughter has done, Swede turns for solace to his younger brother, the philanderer Jerry Levov, a sucessful cardiologist, living in Florida and working on his own 3rd marriage. Jerry, a high school classmate of Nathan Zuckerman, seething with the aftermath of the short-end of the stick in this sibling rivalry, revels and responds with cold hard truths, anger and resentment.

Not to be ignored is the painful depiction of the heartache parents experience when one of their own goes bad. What a great loss it is when the child you gave life to, whom you love and adore, turns away in hate and crosses a line which leaves them lost for all time.

Zuckerman appears briefly, in a brief flash forward, when the Swede approaches him to help write a eulogy to his departed father. This alter-ego of Roth's is almost pleased to see that even the Swede, that perfect hero, has a moment of doubt and remorse.

Hidden in the horror of his life having been blasted apart by his daughter's terrorist act is the fact that 20 years later he has found some comfort in a new marriage and 2 more children. Still handsome, glamorous and rich he is still the Swede to others but he no longer glides on air above the rest of us.

Another hidden meaning is that this is an American tale of the "pastoral" life, gone bad, and that the events herein, could happen to any one of us.

Indeed this is a rich and complex tale reflecting the turmoil both this family and America experineced during this time in history. As depicted by Roth it is a masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member lriley
It is the late 1960's and Seymour 'Swede' Levov more or less has everything. He was a natural and graceful and renowned athelete around the area of his jewish high school. He doesn't even look jewish hence his nickname. His hard working successful father will hand him down his factory manufacturing
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gloves and he will go on to marry Miss New Jersey 1949--the local irish catholic princess Dawn Dwyer. He is smart and conscientious and humble to a fault even when it comes to his atheletic prowess. What could possibly go wrong? Well lots of things but mainly that the one child of Mr. Levov's marraige to Ms. Dwyer--namely Merrywin (Merry) will grow up to be a weatherman and wreak havoc on their neighborhood and on their lives. Merry is determined to find her own place in the world and gets her motivation by screaming obscenities at Lyndon Baines Johnson as later on her grandfather Louis Levov will do the same for Richard Nixon and all because of their opposition to the Vietnam War. Merry will take it to another place of bombings and killings for the radical underground and her family are left to grapple with the question of why?--and as anyone who has ever read Roth knows that why is a question always to be asked. Failing to adequately understand that or each other is what the book is about.

Sometimes it seems almost like the most ordinary prose but Roth has a real talent for keeping momentum going forward. He also has a keen ear for dialogue and in this particular book it is Swede's father Lou and to a lesser extent Swede's brother Jerry and Merry herself who lead the way. A question that strikes me is--is this an ordinary family for their time?--and I can only say yes and no. It is a remarkable book though and Roth is without a doubt as important as any living writer living in the United States today.
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LibraryThing member drewfull
This is a taxing novel. Roth slow-plays his plot development to align with and mimic the slow, steady demise of the Swede so that when he feels the walls closing in on him you the reader feel similarly. The result is simply an amazing, atmospheric novel that deconstructs the American dream and
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those who seek it and forces us to ask basic questions about how and why we interact with the world the way we do.

Yes, at times it crawls. There's no clear ending. Things seem to occur for no reason. This is life as we know it, right?
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LibraryThing member donitamblyn
I recently finished an outstandingly beautiful novel (THE MASTER PLANETS by Donald Gallinger), and immediately went into one of those "I'll-Never-Find-Anything-As-Good-Again" funks. Then I found this book, which is not only a brilliant piece of literature (it's by Roth, after all), but also deals
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with some fascinating issues similar to those in PLANETS--issues I wanted to read more about.

As just one example: I am not Jewish, but have noticed in certain writings something uniquely poignant in the Jewish love for America immediately after World War II. This was the country that had taken in many Jews' parents and grandparents in a way never before experienced, I believe. For the first time they were not outsiders, but simply immigrants in a land full of immigrants. And for the first time, every opportunity--in this nation of bounteous opportunities--was open to them. It is not surprising that the name "America" would become almost a hymn on the lips of many American Jews in this period, that they would develop an unparalleled love for their country. As all of America basked in a cornucopian economy and the righteous sense that our own good works had entitled us to it, American Jews were, perhaps, "Ultimate Americans." So it is also not surprising that, like everyone else, they also gave little thought to the idea that the richness of life here was too well fed by our military industrial complex and exploitation of Third World nations.

The protagonist, Seymour "Swede" Levov, certainly does not think about these things, and therein lies his downfall. As Amazon reviewer Ian Muldoon so aptly notes, the central question of the book is whether it is acceptable for Levov to to accept that he is one of the lucky ones and simply enjoy his place in time and history, or whether his good luck also carries an obligation. An inherently decent man, Levov does not look beyond his own life to wonder if it impinges on the lives of others. But his daughter cannot feel so sanguine. Merry has not had the good fortune of Seymour and his wife to be thought "perfect": She grew up with a terrible stutter, over which her beautiful parents agonized. Is this what gave her the ability (willingness? determination?) to see the fissures in the edifice they revere? In any event, she sees the fissures yawning, and her answer is to place sticks of dynamite in them. And later to withdraw so far from the world that she scarcely eats so as not to "destroy plant life," and will not even wash for fear of "harming the water." She has started by demolishing the world around her, and is now obliterating herself. Miraculously, the stutter that at one time "terrified" Levov is gone... as she herself soon will be.

AMERICAN PASTORAL is the story of a beautiful nation that, about 40 years ago, let some part of its best self slip away. As the "Ultimate American," Levov is the perfect symbol. As he thinks, so thought we.
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LibraryThing member jshttnbm
Well, I hated this.

Although Lou Levov gets 5 stars as a character.
LibraryThing member dchaikin
After a really nice and interesting first section that brings in history and the 1940's and Jewish culture, the story begins... and it's a dreary awful story that uses the ultimate American dream to pull apart and destroy that ideal along with much of American life in general, esp. suburban life.
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That is great, but I didn't enjoy it.

How can I explain why I didn't like this book. I have no interest in critizing the book itself, which I think is very powerful. It's my reaction to it I'm trying to understand. It's something like this: in essense this book is social commentary as fiction, verging on political. It's not a basic novel, it has a point to make. And all this stuff about the Swede and the accidental crisis he creates himself and all his mistakes, all of this is just a vessel in route to that point. I'm not sure Roth intends his meaning to be so clear, but that's how I see it.

Once I started to think I discovered the "point" of novel, then I couldn't really enjoy it anymore. There was nothing left to do except slog through each awful event.
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LibraryThing member rongeigle
There is no American Pastoral. There is only American berserk, according to Roth. Bad things happen, very bad things -- explosions, rapes, cheating spouses, nasty children, prostate cancer, forks aimed at the eye. This is true even for the handsome, seemingly perfect, excessively talented high
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school athletic star and his beauty-pageant wife.

My reading of this book is that it is a very personal statement about what life brings. There is the perfection we can often see in youth, but that perfection is an illusion. Don't try to embrace it and hold it. Because there is another wholly unexpected event coming along that will disrupt it and, very likely, blow it to the sky. I suppose this is a very cynical view of life, but as spoken in the voice of an aging novelist and focused on the life of a high-school hero whose best attempts often end in failure or total loss, it feels -- as I noted -- like a very personal, lonely lament of a life shaped by harsh realities and disappointments. More of a "coming-to-terms with what I've seen" than "this is a lousy life and don't expect to be happy." Others may see this point differently.

This book is beautifully written but also terribly overwritten. I felt bludgeoned by paragraph after paragraph that said the same thing -- again, in gorgeous prose. That said, this is a book that is worth the time. Philip Roth is an American treasure, even when the message he conveys is melancholy.
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LibraryThing member KristySP
I think I will shoot myself in the foot before I read another Phllip Roth book. He's so dark and hateful--but not in a good way. I've read plenty of dark, twisted novels, but there's something about Phillip Roth that really gets me: He hates women, for one thing. Also, he's just a big hater.
LibraryThing member daizylee
It would seem in this day and age that a story of a family and their loss of innocence, along with America's loss of innocence in the 60's, would be old hat. Yet Roth's novel crackles with life and emotion. While you read, you know this has been done before, these ideas have been imagined before,
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and yet no one has ever brought them to life the way Roth does. You really do mourn with Swede as he meditates on his life and family.

The style is unusual, moving from here to there with no real direction. Especially because of the first section, which involves the "author's" decision to write about Swede through his own eyes. The second section moves back and forth through the history of the characters. And the third culminates in a disastrous dinner party in one night.

Personally, I've struggled with Roth before. I've been rather disappointed by many of his books. But this one was completely and utterly captivating.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is filled with bile, lyrical bile. Whether in the voice of Seymour Levov, “the Swede”, or his brother Jerry, or his father Lou, or the Swede’s daughter, Merry, or almost any other character, the potential for an excoriating rant is virtually irresistible. The
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anger, or envy, or contempt, or, sometimes, distorting idolatry, is released shotgun fashion – its spread is wide and indiscriminate and it may not necessarily kill what it hits. Distorting idolatry might sound odd in that list, but love in this novel, whether of Zuckerman for the Swede, the Swede for his daughter or his wife, or various characters for “America”, is often so blurred and overridden with wish fulfilment that it begins to feel a bit more like hate for whatever the real object of that love might be.

The novel opens with a long framing device in which Roth’s writerly alter-ego, Zuckerman, introduces us to the Swede. The Swede is almost too good to be true, and not surprisingly cracks in the façade soon begin to emerge. At that point the frame of Zuckerman is dropped and the novel continues in revelatory fashion from the Swede’s perspective. That has the effect of making the frame appear to have been superfluous. No matter. By then the rants are in full flown against LBJ, the war in Vietnam, capitalism, anti-capitalism, Nixon, intellectualism, almost each character, against the narrator (the Swede) himself, and more.

We follow the Swede from his origins in Newark to the superficially idyllic and pastoral setting of Old Rimrock, with his near-Miss-America wife, Dawn, and their stuttering daughter, Merry. Merry’s impulse to rant is nearly matched by her speech impediment. It is an articulate inarticulateness, with explosive consequences, that is mirrored by other characters, and, possibly, by Roth himself. We see pyrotechnical displays of language but I fear it may be mere display. As ever there is no counter-balance, and the reader is left with the suspicion that despite piercing insight, Roth has missed something equally obvious. Or at least that is how this reader reacts.
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LibraryThing member Karlus
Here is Philip Roth turning his spotlight up to blow-torch intensity to look with searing realism at the members of a star-crossed American family, some of whom wished to live an American dream and others who wished to have their own dream for America. Set against the background of civil protest
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and violence which intruded into people's lives during the Viet-Nam war, it closes with an enigmatic question for the reader, but there is no uncertainty whatever about the overwhelming ability of the author to capture in words the passionate emotions and conflicted thoughts of people caught in a vivid American experience. Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member suejonesjohnson
Everybody in our book club did not expect to like this book but to a person we loved it! It was my first time to read Roth because I had always presumed him to be too cynical but his incisive and colorful use of the language evoked an unexpected passion. The story verges on the melodramatic but the
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subject matter (the disintegration of a major American city and family) certainly lends itself to melodrama.
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LibraryThing member BeeQuiet
I'll admit, having first read The Plot Against America by Roth, I found this one a lot harder to get into, in spite of it's Pulitzer prize winning credentials. Roth's insights into human nature are staggering, moving from the microcosm that is human life to the macrocosm that is America without
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breaking his stride. He is undoubtedly one of the great writers of his time. Still I found that the pace dragged a little and I found that the devices he sometimes used to push a point counted towards this even though they illustrated his points perfectly. There is something of the Russian epic novel in this, diving into small detail with seeming irrelevance at times, yet surfacing with profound revelations. A brilliant book, but one which requires a certain amount of tenacity.
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LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
I read this book about one year after I read The Human Stain. First thing I noticed when I began to read was that I really enjoy Roth's style. Although I was not as impressed by American Pastoral as by The Human Stain, this particularly book makes me want to read the third book of Roth's American
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Greatly created characters and a compelling story that gives insights into the American minds and thoughts. 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member gabebaker
This is my third Roth, following Portnoy's Complaint and Sabbath's Theater. I was voluntarily Roth-less for about three years following each of my prior Roth reads, and it will likely be three more years before I pick him up again. It's not Roth's prose that accounts for my reluctance. He write
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good, especially when he's describing Newark in its bustling, industrial heyday. But I don't read novels to get depressed, and Roth's novels depress me. It's not the subject matter - my current fav Denis Johnson isn't all about rainbows and lemon drops. But Roth's powerful descriptions of his characters' internal miseries effectively drag me down into the hopeless territory they are inhabiting. The lack of resolution of the most interesting plot line was also mildly irritating.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
This story is set in the late sixties and early seventies in Newark, New Jersey and reflects the social upheavals of the time. It is a framed story. The first chapters we are introduced to Zuckerman (author) and his admiration almost worship of the Swede, a high school athlete. At a reunion, in
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which Zuckerman is a speaker, he learns that Swede is deceased. Zuckerman, always curious about Swede begins to imagine the life that Swede lived as it was impacted by his daughter's decision to bomb the local post office. The rest of the book is this imagined story (which Zuckerman publishes) of Swede.

The story is accurate historically for the Newark riots of 1967, Watergate, the Deep Throat movie (the first x rated movie that we all flocked to see publicly) as well as the Black Panthers, Weathermen and Angela Davis. LBJ is president and the US is deeply invested in sending soldiers to Vietnam. The main character, Swede, is based on a real athlete that attended Weequahic High School. I really wondered if this school was made up. The "equa" in the middle made me think that the author was saying something about these Jewish kids attending school in the US. I do think there is more in this story than the historical events. It is a story of Jewish American who marries an Irish Catholic girl and the changes in the family from the grandparents who came to the US, sold gloves on the streets and finally established a factory business. The family erodes or changes from all Jewish, to the boys marrying Gentile Girls to the daughter who is not Jewish or Catholic and abandons all the family values and hates her family for having a profitable business.

The title American Pastoral, does it refer to the immigrant experience for the Jew who came to the US and found peace and the life without persecution? Towards the end, the author mentions Thanksgiving as the true American Pastoral. A time where everyone can come together whether they are Catholic, Jewish, or Gentile. Thanksgiving really is the best holiday. I liked this story. It was engaging and the characters are well developed. You forget that this is just Zuckerman's imaginations and that we really know very little about Swede or his daughter Merry. Compared to the other book by Roth that I've read, Plot Against America, I liked this much better. I will read more of Roth at some point.
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LibraryThing member closedmouth
(Reviewed July 12, 2009)

Begins very slowly, and I was worried I'd started something I couldn't bear to see to the end, but takes an early twist and starts to get very strange and very intense. The insight into the misguided American Dream is devastating, and the epic, loping tangents a pleasure and
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a pain to read. This is really quite beautiful.
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