Thursday, November 08, 2007

82. "American Pastoral" - Philip Roth


Postwar Newark, Jewish neighborhood. "The Swede" is the WASP-y BMOC, excelling in all three sports and all-American hero. He married Miss New Jersey and settles into quiet, suburban life.

The end.

Or not. Nathan Zuckerman, featured in several of Roth's other novels, discovers the fall of "The Swede," otherwise known as Seymour Levov - his only daughter blew up a post office during the Vietnam peace-hate frenzy.

The first chapters were brilliant in their efficiency of language. So much nostalgia, but not an essence of it. Only when Nathan is at his 45th high school reunion, dancing with a woman he didn't recognize, did I feel like I could smell old people, which meant that it was getting a little schmaltzy for me.

But then the POV becomes Levov's through the end, aptly titled, "Paradise Lost." Pages of assumptions, self-doubt, and glove-making (Levov's company) later and I missed the soft voice of Nathan Zuckerman. I'm still questioning why Roth chose to use his character other than the obvious schtick of the constant narrator traveling from book to book.

This is a novel at the top of several "all time best" lists. I understand the irony of this American "pastoral," but didn't fall completely under its spell.

3.0 out of 5.0 Osmosis Pickles.

1 comment:

prepossessing said...

I don't know what it was about this book. I absolutely loved it and could not put it down. I have read several other Roth novels and was totally unable to get into them. I'm sorry you didn't have the same experience with this wonderful book, but there are many more out there for you to review!