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American Pastoral

Cover of American Pastoral

American Pastoral

Nathan Zuckerman Series, Book 6
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AMERICAN PASTORAL 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. 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. For the Swede is not allowed to stay forever blissful inside the beloved hundred - and- seventy-year-old stone farmhouse, in rural Old Rimrock, where he lives with his pretty wife-the college sweetheart who was Miss New Jersey of 1949-and the lively, precocious daughter who is the apple of his eye, that is until she grows up to be a revolutionary terrorist.

AMERICAN PASTORAL 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. 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. For the Swede is not allowed to stay forever blissful inside the beloved hundred - and- seventy-year-old stone farmhouse, in rural Old Rimrock, where he lives with his pretty wife-the college sweetheart who was Miss New Jersey of 1949-and the lively, precocious daughter who is the apple of his eye, that is until she grows up to be a revolutionary terrorist.

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  • Philip Roth in a story that is as much about loving America as it is hating it, Philip Roth presents a vivid portrait of an innocent man being swept away by a current of conflict and violence in his own backyard.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 28, 1997
    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.

  • AudioFile Magazine The celebrated author of Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint contributes another episode--a long, sprawling one--to the saga of his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. This time Zuckerman chronicles his experiences with his high school sports idol, "Swede" Levov, whose easy life is thrown off kilter by the tumultuous '60's. At first glance, Ron Silver seems the perfect Roth interpreter. He has the classic aura of an East Coast Jewish intellectual. Unfortunately, he reads in a near monotone. The strain of wading through such a hefty tome exacerbates this ear-numbing flaw. Further, Dove has annoyingly packaged the cassettes to make keeping them in order a chore. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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    Phoenix Books, Inc.
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American Pastoral
American Pastoral
Nathan Zuckerman Series, Book 6
Philip Roth
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