Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1998Seymour "Swede" Levov is a prosperous, hard-working family man who comes of age in America's triumphant postwar era. The owner of a Newark glove factory, Swede leads a blissful existence, complete with a 170-year-old stone farmhouse, a beautiful wife - Miss New Jersey 1949 - and a lively, precocious daughter. But when the country begins to run amok in the 1960s, Swede's perfect world crumbles. His cherished daughter becomes a revolutionary terrorist, bent on destroying everything her father holds dear. In chronicling Swede's rise and fall, author Philip Roth paints a vivid portrait of a man swept away by a current of conflict and violence in his own backyard.
Copyright ©1997 by Philip Roth; Copyright (P)1997 by Dove Audio, Inc.
Audie Award Winner, Best Solo Narration by a Male, 1998
"One of Roth's most powerful novels ever...moving, generous and ambitious...a fiercely affecting work of art." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Dazzling...a wrenching, compassionate, intelligent novel...gorgeous." (Boston Globe)
"At once expansive and painstakingly detailed.... The pages of American Pastoral crackle with the electricity and zest of a first-rate mind at work." (San Francisco Chronicle)
This is the 10th or 12th audiobook to which I've listened on Audible.com, and far and above the rest of them (most of which are more "popular" or "populist" titles) this one is relentless. It's both impossible to listen to, and impossible to put down.
It's not a novel of plot, though there is one, and it's not a novel of characters, though there are many of them and they are very well drawn. Rather, it's a novel of images, and a novel of feelings, and a novel of writing. It's the most well written of the novels to which I've listened, especially since I find that I enjoy the languid descriptions and sections of prose that Roth uses. It's a story of what happens when an original sinner interacts with humans of all ilks, angels and demons alike. It's a story of nature (of the human kind) and nurture (of the human kind) and interactions (of the human kind) and above all, it's the story of people.
This is one of the very best contemporary American novels I've read/listened to. It's offers some wonderfully intense, sustained interrogations of why modern lives aren't as satisfying subjectively as they should be, even when objective circumstances are favorable. The literary form used is interesting. The narrator is very good. Occasionally, there are slight lapses in sound quality, but nothing to interfere much.
This novel doesn't move quickly. Rather, it luxuriates in the mind of the narrator for long stretches. There is very interesting story material here, but this is more of an intricately designed character sketch than a more traditionally arced novel.
That being said, though, it DESERVED the pulitzer. No question. Roth is a master of rendering psychology on the page.
I plan on reading everything I can by this author. American Pastoral has a very intersting story line, but what really struck me about this book is Roth's fantastic ability to "turn a phrase". I found myself rewinding and relistining not because I was confused by his writting but because I was entrawled by it.
Ron Silver is brilliant. His accents, phrasing, and timing give the story an added drama that must be exactly what Phillip Roth imagined. This is the best narration of any audiobook I have ever read.
Even some of the most terrific works of literature can come across as less than great if the narrator doesn't do the work justice. But Ron Silver has done a fantastic job narrating this lovely book. This is probably the kind of book I would not be able to get through were I reading it physically, but in audio book form, it is a true pleasure. Detailed descriptions and extensive dialogue that might otherwise seem tedious to the average reader, especially someone new to Roth's work, are a simply joy to take in thanks to Mr. Silver's dedicated 'performance." His accents are charming, and his speed varies according to the tempo of the scene which really helps. Of course, Roth is a wonderful writer, with or without a talented narrator and American Pastoral reminds me of "Middlesex" in both its extensive exploration of a single family's history, and the humor with which its characters are brought to life. Probably a book everyone... especially any potential fiction writers... should read.
Roth knows that a book is more than a plot. His charaters are real as the guy sitting next to you on the bus--and a heck of a lot more interesting. Ron Silver doesn't just read the book, he performs it.
Well worth the listen--especially for readers who remember the 60's.
This book is one of the great American novels. How anyone could ever give this book one star is beyond my comprehension? Not only is the language gorgeous but the issues that Roth deals with are so deep and affect all of us. They are difficult issues about morality and child raising and guilt and work ethic. Every page dealt with things than any thinking moral person grapples with everyday. What thoughtful parent has not had the awful experience of their child doing acts for which we suffer? What thoughtful parent has not blamed themselves for the strange behavior of their child and searched their memories for some action that could have caused their children to turn out the way they did? If there are people who's children have not disappointed them in some way, they should count themselves having won the genetic lottery. One in a billion maybe. I think that people who couldn't finish reading this book did so because they are in denial about the problems that the Lulov's have gone through that they themselves have probably have experienced and they can't face the issues. The central theme of the book, that of the American ethic of: work hard, be a good person, follow the rules and good things will happen to you. This book portrays that life isn't fair and that terrible things happen to good people. The last line of the book is so profound: "What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Luvov's". This book is not for dummies who enjoy vampire, bloodsucking, inane characters. Each of the characters in this book are so thoroughly drawn, so complex, so filled with contradictions, that by its end, I thought I was a part of their lives. Contrary to some reviews that thought the book was too long, I thought it was too short. I craved to know more about all of these people. What happened to them? What happened to Merry after her confession? What happened to the Luvov's marriage? In addition, the reader was spectacular. I found myself so totally involved in both the internal conversations and character conversations that it was hard to determine reality from fiction. As a boy, I had heard conversations exactly like these from my Uncles and Parents. What was particularly eerie for me was that I grew up in Newark and Elizabeth and lived three blocks from where Mary grew up and went to the same high schools described in the book. Phillip Roth captured the precise moment in time and with the perfect tone of the time.
Phillip Roth is a master with words and that alone makes for a fine story. But the narrator of this audiobook, Ron Silver, is simply the best I have ever heard. He gives life to the story like no other reader I have ever enjoyed. Get it, you'll love it.
Since taking my first creative writing class in 2008 the pleasure I used to get from reading has been greatly reduced. I notice things I never noticed before. That said, I think I rate books pretty generously. Anyone who actually manages to write a whole book and then get it published deserves an extra star.
Ron Silver knows how to read. It was almost as if he was speaking his own words. I never got the feeling he was reading. His voice might take a bit of getting used to, but I enjoyed every minute.
The story depicts one family's tragic, up-close encounter with an important piece of American History. The use of repetition works to emphasize the character's confusion and regret as he scrambles to save his family from the devastating effects of tragedy. It is told as a story in a story. I think the story might have benefitted from being tied up a little more neatly at the end by the storyteller. But all in all, I do recommend this read.
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