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American Pastoral

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ISBN-10: 0375701427

ISBN-13: 9780375701429

Edition: 1997

Authors: Philip Roth

List price: $16.95
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Book details

List price: $16.95
Copyright year: 1997
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 2/3/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 432
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.50" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.946
Language: English

"Goodbye, Columbus' is a first book but it is not the book of a beginner. Unlike those of us who come howling into the world, blind and bare, Mr. Roth appears with nails, hair, and teeth, speaking coherently. At 26 he is skillful, witty, and energetic and performs like a virtuoso"---so wrote Saul Bellow when Philip Roth made a loud entry onto the literary scene with Goodbye, Columbus (1960), a novella and short stories that won the 1960 National Book Award. Roth, born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, attended the public schools of that city and went on to Bucknell University before receiving his M.A. from the University of Chicago and publishing stories about contemporary Jewish life in such prestigious literary magazines as, Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Commentary. Of Letting Go (1962), a novel about young university teachers in the 1950s, the Atlantic said that "the sharply observant qualities of his first book have been expanded and enriched; he has become more probing, tentative, complex"; and "When She Was Good," his story of a gentile girl of the Midwest who in striving for moral perfection destroys her family and ultimately herself, was described by Raymond Rosenthal in the New Leader: "With a simplicity and modesty that are in the end lethal, Roth has written the most violently satiric book about American life since Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One."' The bestselling Portnoy's Complaint (1969) caused a greater stir than any other novel of its time. Told in the form of a confession by Alexander Portnoy to his psychiatrist Dr. Spielvogel, this outrageous novel centers around the character of Alexander's archetypal Jewish mother. Virtually the apotheosis of the American Jewish novel, Portnoy's Complaint seems almost to have killed off the form it represents, and even Roth himself has been hard put to match or surpass this blackest of comedies. Our Gang (1971) is a clever political satire directed at President Nixon and his pre-Watergate associates, but those prominent targets of Roth's venomous scorn seem pale and feeble when compared with the formidable mother in Portnoy's Complaint. The Breast (1972) finds Roth rather pathetically groping for a subject equally spectacular. oth has continued to produce novels at the rate of about one every two years, but none has come close to matching the impact of Portnoy's Complaint . In fact, Roth has linked together several of his recent works by means of a central character named Nathan Zuckerman, who seems to be Philip Roth looking back on his literary career and wondering where he goes from there. Zuckerman is introduced in My Life as a Man (1974) and takes the central role in The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), and The Anatomy Lesson (1983). In addition to the Zuckerman saga, Roth has produced several independent novels. Recent work, such as Deception (1991), deals further with the interplay of truth and fiction in the "author's" life. In his most recent work, Patrimony: A True Story (1991), winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, Roth recounts his father's illness and death. Roth has also taken an active interest in the work of Eastern European writers, such as Milan Kundera, (see Vol. 2) and has helped bring their work to the West's attention.