Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1998Philip Roth presents a vivid portrait of an innocent man being swept away by a current of conflict and violence in his own backyard - a story that is as much about loving America as it is hating it. Seymour "Swede" Levov, a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, and the prosperous heir 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 a 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 ... a strong, confident man, a master of social equilibrium, overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder. For the Swede is not allowed to stay forever blissful living out life in rural Old Rimrock in his 170 year-old stone farmhouse with his pretty wife (his college sweetheart and Miss New Jersey of 1949) and his lively albeit precocious daughter, the apple of his eye ... that is until she grows up to become a revolutionary terrorist.
©1997 Philip Roth (P)1997 by Dove Audio, (P) 2014 by Phoenix Books
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.
I've burned through many books in my lifetime. The only ones that stick with me are those that reached in and broke me in some way. I am not Jewish and don't feel that it's a book only Jewish people would get. In fact, I've recommended it to Jewish people to read and they didn't seem to 'get it.' I think I like it because it answered a very big question that I always had in my head. Growing up back east, you knew your grandparents generation were the good guys. Then everything in this country fell apart in the 70's. Since that is before my time, this novel singlehandely answered why this country went to the crapper and why all the east coast cities like Baltimore and Newark are more or less minature welfare states. This novel is much more than that. And it has resonated as I've grown up to raise children and considered the father/daughter relationship in this book. It is not a light read. It's a horror novel of real life. The ending blew me away.
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.
I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.
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.
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