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 indigenous American Berserk.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
It’s unpleasant to think you could follow every apparent rule for happiness and success and still wind up unfulfilled and bereft. American Pastoral tells the tale of Seymour "The Swede" Levov, a celebrated high school athlete who then serves in the military, inherits his father's glove-manufacturing business, and marries a Miss America contestant. But when his radicalized daughter, Merry, commits an act of domestic terrorism, Levov's idealism is fiercely challenged. In this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Philip Roth orchestrates a thrilling showdown between the World War I, World War II, and Vietnam War generations that ends in ghastly, sarcastic laughter.
The protagonist of Roth's new novel, a magnificent meditation on a pivotal decade in our nation's history, is in every way different from the profane and sclerotic antihero of Sabbath's Theater (for which Roth won the National Book Award in 1995). It's as though, having vented his spleen and his libido in Mickey Sabbath, Roth was then free to contemplate the life of a man who is Sabbath's complete opposite. He relates the story of Seymour "Swede" Levov with few sex scenes and no scatological sideshows; the deviant behavior demonstrated here was common to a generation, and the shocks Roth delivers are part of our national trauma. This is Roth's most mature novel, powerful and universally resonant. Swede Levov's life has been charmed from the time he was an all-star athlete at Newark's Weequahic high school. As handsome, modest, generous and kind as he is gifted, Swede takes pains to acknowledge the blessings for which he is perceived as the most fortunate of men. He is patriotic and civically responsible, maritally faithful, morally upstanding, a mensch. He successfully runs his father's glove factory, refusing to be cowed by the race riots that rock Newark, marries a shiksa beauty-pageant queen, who is smart and ambitious, buys a 100-acre farm in a classy suburb--the epitome of serene, innocent, pastoral existence--and dotes on his daughter, Merry. But when Merry becomes radicalized during the Vietnam War, plants a bomb that kills an innocent man and goes underground for five years, Swede endures a torment that becomes increasingly unbearable as he learns more about Merry's monstrous life. In depicting Merry, Roth expresses palpable fury at the privileged, well-educated, self-centered children of the 1960s, who in their militant idealism demonstrated ferocious hatred for a country that had offered their families opportunity and freedom. After three generations of upward striving and success, Swede and his family are flung "out of the longed-for American pastoral and into everything that is its antithesis and its enemy--into the fury, the violence and the desperation of the counterpastoral--into the American berserk." Roth's pace is measured. The first two sections of the book are richly textured with background detail. The last third, however, is full of shocking surprises and a message of existential chaos. "The Swede found out that we are all in the power of something demented,'' Roth writes. And again: "He had learned the worst lesson that life could teach--that it makes no sense." In the end, his dream and his life destroyed by his daughter and the decade, Swede finally understands that he is living through the moral breakdown of American society. The picture is chilling. 100,000 first printing; BOMC selection.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I cannot give this book any stars. Without a doubt one of the two worst books I have ever read! I plowed through this gibberish and incoherent book to see how it would end and it was just as disappointing as the rest of the book. Read if you must but be warned! I can't imagine how they can make a film out of this??
worst book I’ve ever finished
This is the worst book I’ve ever gotten through. I wish I had back all the hours I wasted reading it and the $10 I spent purchasing it. Don’t waste your time.
It began as a story, midway it began as a confession of guilt the last half was a journey through exhaustion for the reader and impatience with endless detours of self implosion wholly uninteresting .....