October 2013 Guest Editor Linwood Barclay on American Pastoral by Philip Roth...
Okay, not a crime novel. I came to Roth late. Everyone else was reading him back when he wrote the outrageous Portnoy's Complaint, but I only discovered him about ten years ago, with The Plot Against America. But American Pastoral is, for me, his masterwork, and maybe one of the best books I've ever read. Roth packs more into a paragraph than other writers pack into an entire book. I'm glad you don't have to be this good to get published.
Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize.
Roth's protagonist is 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 post-war America. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him. For Swede's adored daughter, Merry, has grown from a loving, quick-witted girl into a sullen, fanatical teenager - a teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. And overnight Swede is wrenched out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth's masterpiece.
'Brilliantly written...angry, grieving, witty, acute...compellingly and convincingly rendered' Sunday Times
'A momentous novel' Observer
'Full of insight, full of sharp ironic twists, full of wisdom about American idealism, and full of terrific fun... A profound and personal meditation on the changes in the American psyche over the last fifty years' Financial Times
'A tragedy of classical proportions...a magnificent novel The Times Wonderful, rich...entirely gripping' Sunday Telegraph
The author's alter ego, Nathan Zuckermann, takes a back seat to narrate the story of Seymour 'the Swede Levov. a blonde-haired blue-eyed (but, of course, Jewish) family man with the most unRothian yearning for a settled life. This being a Roth novel, anyone who longs for a simple, innocent existence free from the turbulence and hate of the American century, is asking for trouble and the Swede gets it in spades; the Eisenhower 1950s turn into the weird 60s and America goes to pieces. The Swede's wife cracks up, his daughter, the anger-fuelled Merry, puts a bomb into a post office, kills a passer-by and goes on the run, all is madness and despair. Roth has never written better as he rages against the slide into nihilism and permissiveness that has characterised life in America in the last 30 years. Reading Roth is not a comfortable experience but it has never been more exhilarating. (Kirkus UK)
Publication date: 04/08/2011
Publication date: 21/02/1998
|Publication date:||21st February 1998|
|Genres:||eBook Favourites, Literary Fiction,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),|
In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published ...More About Philip Roth