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The Great American Novel

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,657 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman John Baal, “The Babe Ruth of the Big House,” who never hit a homerun sober. If you’ve never heard of them — or of the Ruppert Mundy’s, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history — it’s because of the Communist plot and the capitalist scandal that expunged the

Hardcover, 382 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by Holt Rhinehart and Winston , Canada
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Mar 24, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Raucous and often extremely funny, The Great American Novel is the story of the forgotten baseball team The Ruppert Mundys as told by former sportswriter and alliteration addict Mr Word Smith - as unreliable a narrator as you will ever encounter and yet his bizarre tale of the conspiracy that destroyed baseball's Patriot League is oddly persuasive. The Mundys are a team of the crippled and/or deluded: their players include the one-legged, the one-armed and, later, a vindictive midget.
Roth does
Mariano Hortal
Publicada en

La gran novela americana de Philip Roth. El béisbol como catalizador del mito

Cada cierto tiempo es bueno recordar lo útil que es el texto que hice sobre el mito de la Gran Novela Americana a propósito del Libertad de Franzen y El gran Gatsby de Fitzgerald; allí hablaba, entre otras cosas, del momento (1868) en que dicho término fue acuñado por John William De Forest y el verdadero alcance del mismo, más allá de superficialidades aplicadas hoy
Simone Subliminalpop
Anche se non c’è Nathan Zuckerman e il romanzo parla molto di Baseball (sport per me alquanto noioso), vi si trova un Roth in splendida forma (come d’altronde quasi sempre nella sua produzione letteraria).
La storia della Patriot League, terza lega di baseball americano, e del suo declino diventano il pretesto per l’invenzione di tanti, tantissimi, personaggi strambi e ottimamente caratterizzati, ma anche quello per parlare d’altro, molto altro: la guerra, il comunismo, l’emancipazione delle mino
Brian Levinson
Jun 16, 2007 Brian Levinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot of Jewish friends, and most of them are Philip Roth fans. Some of them are baseball fans. But none of them have read this book. Why? I don't know. I myself am only a half-Jewish baseball fan, but I still managed to enjoy it thoroughly. Maybe if my mother had been Jewish, I would've given it five out of five, but I thought Roth's ending was hurried and unsuitable, and his satire was a bit scattershot. Nevertheless, my mother is a nice woman. She's Catholic. If you're ever in Suffern, ...more
May 13, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was almost discouraged enough by the prologue to not even bother with this book. In the end, I mostly just skimmed through the intro, focusing only on the brilliant part about Hemingway, and ignoring all of the pointless alliteration so that I could get to to the story. And boy, am I glad I stuck with it. I really enjoyed this book. I am big on dark humor, and this thing is chalk full of it. It is a masterful work.

The narrator regales us with the tale of a forgotten, eradicated baseball league
Jim Leckband
Mar 30, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Great American Novel" is not the Great American Novel. Oh, it takes its swings and occasionally hits a long one, but at the end of the game it is like a misplayed fungo. The metaphor-laden previous sentence illustrates the potential problem for a lot of readers. The novel is so soaked in baseball that it might be only baseball lovers or readers that can handle a lot of digressions.

Which is what Great American Novels do. They digress. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - endless river raftin
Dave Russell
Dec 27, 2009 Dave Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This book was a godsend after the last Roth novel I read, The Professor of Desire. Whereas that book is overly earnest and self-indulgent The Great American Novel is just pure comic inventiveness. This is Roth's tribute to America: it's culture, language, and politics. The prologue in which the narrator ("Fella name a' Smith. First name a' Word.") meets Hemingway, the midget Bob Yamm's farewell speech, the game between the Rupert Mundys and the asylum inmates, the visit to the "Blue 'n Pink Dist ...more
Afraid I'm going to have to throw in the towel on this one. I love the premise--a third baseball league wiped from history via conspiracy which remains in the memory of only one crotchety and wholly unreliable ex-sports writer. Parts of it are great--funny, sometimes straight up slapstick. And that prologue is a thing of genius, culminating in Smitty measuring up his epic against other GANs, which, combined with the endless references/allusions to Moby-Dick (so much as saying that a collection o ...more
Jon Sindell
May 27, 2012 Jon Sindell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, of course, you could always entitle it "The Great American Novel." I haven't read other reviews, and I'll bet others have said this or something like this. Never mind. Won't delete.

But. My god, this is a hysterical novel. You've heard of the state of Major League Baseball during WWII, when so many able-bodied young ballplayers were at war that the standards for entry in MLB were lower than? Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder for the Browns? Joe Nuxhall, who appeared in a game at the age
Apr 28, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The starting line-up for the '43 Ruppert Mundys:
1. SS Frenchy Asterte- "Unlucky Asterte" couldn't speak English and had no country to call his own.
2. 2B Nickname Damur- A 92lb 14 year old boy who was more interested with getting himself a new name than his play on the field.
3. 1B John Baal- Grandson of "Base," son of "Spit," both legendary (and banned for life) Patriot Leaguers. John was a power hitter...but only if he was drunk.
4. C Hothead Ptah- Hothead had a wooden leg and liked to argue.
5. L
Joel Ortiz-Quintanilla
i got arrested and i couldn't find a good book in jail to read, and then lo and behold i came across this. I always heard of p. roth, but i never read anything from him, so i read this book and thank you mr. roth for making my first two weeks in jail bearable. i knew i was in jail with tons of stupid people, myself included, but i never thought i would read something like this in jail. Wow, even in jail i discovered authors that i really enjoyed. I have since become a fan. Last week i went to th ...more
Jan 19, 2010 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
An American novel...definitely. Great? No so much so.

The writing of this is typical 1970's humor. Think M*A*S*H (yes, I know the book was published in '68, but the movie was released in '70, which helped popularize the book series) or the works of Kurt Vonnegut. It's a sort of intelligentsia humor. Sophisticated. Dry. Not a laugh-out-loud type of humor. And for me, this didn't work.

I have to be up-front. I'm not a huge baseball fan. I enjoy it a little bit more, now as I'm older and can look for
Apr 29, 2012 cheeseblab rated it liked it
Funny story about this book: a literal lifetime ago (1978ish, I'm thinking--I supposed I could dig up the postcard [what postcard? be patient, read on]) to confirm, but that doesn't seem like something I want to devote a Sunday hour to), when I was a graduate student in English at the University of Illinois, I taught, under the omnibus rubric of Literature and Experience (Engl 106--kinda scary how clearly I remember stuff from then when I often can't remember while walking upstairs why I needed ...more
Evyn Charles
This book is insane and not easy to stick with. It follows a fictitious baseball team in a fictitious baseball league during WW2. The characters, narrator, and plot twists are unbelievable, comedic, sarcastic. It is a kind of commentary on society at that time.
Philip Roth is an amazing writer and I think he had to get things out of his system before reaching the consistent plateau he has been on. After reading this, The Breast and his Nixon book (Our Gang), I decided to skip a lot of his early/m
About 30 years ago I read Roth – as we all did, Portnoy's Complaint – and middle aged New York Jewishness really didn't resonate with an adolescent in small town New Zealand. A friend recommended recently that I try this, and it's pretty good – but I suspect that it works for me because I now grapple with the history, organisation and politics of sports organisations. It's a good satire of Organised Baseball, of Cold War politics, of McCarthyism – but I'm afraid that it still doesn't resonate in ...more
David Anderson
Oct 31, 2015 David Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilarous. Almost as much fun as Roth's satiric spoof of Richard Nixon, Our Gang. Titled The Great American Novel because it spoofs what are historically the two "Great American Pastimes": baseball and anti-communism. Don't need to know that much about baseball to enjoy that aspect (personally can't stand the game but still had a blast with the exploits of the fictional Patriot League and it's "homeless" team, the Ruppert Mundy's) but it would help to know something of McCarthyism and the House U ...more
Dennis Weeks
Jun 03, 2010 Dennis Weeks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Great American Novel is not a novel in the sense that The Great Gatsby is a novel. It is an imagined epic baseball satire that lies somewhere between Tristram Shandy and the bible - but just the funny parts. Consequently I find that it is best savored over many weeks - a few dozen pages at a time. Frankly, it is so perverse in its sexist, racist absolutely non PC perspective that the shock value improves in small portions - again, somewhat like the bible. This is my second reading and I am a ...more
Michael Battaglia
I'm a fan of baseball basically due to marriage, as my spouse is a near lifelong fan of the local pinstriped team and as such my shelf of "stories about baseball" consists of Michael Bishop's "Brittle Innings" and, er, this one (I do have the "The Natural" around somewhere and that odd Robert Coover novel, which I'm not sure is really "about" baseball, per se). I find all the various number crunching aspects of the game fascinating in an academic sort of way and while I haven't been able to sit ...more
May 15, 2011 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, america, sports
This is easily the tamest Philip Roth book I've read, both in terms of explicit sexual fantasies and in terms of writing style. The 50-page "preface" did leave me with a little bit of Roth fatigue, but for the book is a surprisingly straightforward, by his standards, satirical novel about a baseball team during World War II.
Massimo Carcano
Penso che Con questo libro Philip Roth abbia voluto dirci: "Ehi ragazzi, ehi lettori, guardate come sono bravo e come scrivo bene!". E già dal titolo ci è andato giù pesante dal momento che questo è tutto tranne che un romanzo. Vicenda strana quella di questa Patriot League, vicenda senza capo né coda e dai tratti decisamente surreali, popolata oltretutto da una serie di personaggi improbabili. Certo alcuni passaggi sono anche divertenti ma io ho fatto troppa fatica a star dietro ad una storia c ...more
Apr 25, 2012 Eric rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I expected a Philip Roth novel about baseball to be more to my liking, but this novel is Roth trying to write a funny man's novel. I don't think it suits him very well. Not funny and not very precise with its post-war commentary on American culture.
Dec 06, 2012 Kerfe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, baseball
I almost made it. But I just couldn't manage to slog through the last 100 pages of this book. Pointless, sophomoric, and, well, boring.

The first chapter is definitely worth reading though.
Feb 09, 2016 Mgcgio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non ho mai visto questo romanzo citato tra i migliori di Roth.
Ho letto pochissimo di questo autore, ma sapere che questo non è il suo meglio, fa venire voglia di leggere tutta la sua bibliografia.
Veniamo a sapere, nell'eccezionale prologo (in cui appare anche un isterico Hemingway), che fino alla seconda guerra mondiale, le leghe maggiori del baseball erano 3, ma la Patriot League è stata cancellata e rimossa dalla memoria nazionale. L'unico che sembra ricordarsela, è il narratore, un giornalist
Lee (Rocky)
Feb 03, 2015 Lee (Rocky) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Philip Roth is a great writer, and several of his novels rank amongst my favorites, but this one just isn't so great. The prologue was irritating with its excessive alliteration and I nearly gave up on the book before even getting into the first official chapter. The rest of the book is better and the last chapter adds enough twists to keep it interesting as the end of the novel approaches. Overall, though, this novel does not play at all to Roth's strengths as a writer -- he doesn't have a stro ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Commie Shortstops
The Rupert Mundy's were a sight to behold.
Dec 26, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it
I, like most college students in the 60’s, read my share of Philip Roth, notably “Goodbye Columbus,” “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “Our Gang.” I came across “The Great American Novel” several years ago and was intrigued by the blurb on the dust jacket indicating it was a satirical baseball novel. So I was interested, though the title seemed a bit confusing. Well, the title refers to the quest by most writers to write just that, “The Great American Novel.” And in a prologue filled with alliteration a ...more
Perry Whitford
Jul 23, 2015 Perry Whitford rated it liked it
Lets start by making it clear that it helps if you like baseball before you read this one. Furthermore, it helps if you have a little understanding of the history of America's Pastime too. Unusually for a Brit, I qualify on both counts! I love baseball and I know a little bit about it too.

Not as much as Smitty "Word" Smith however. He is the narrator who follows and chronicles the woes of the fictional Ruppert Mundays during the first year of America's involvement in World War II, when many of
Chris Gager
My next book. Probably start tomorrow night. Can't seem to find the correct cover so far. Starting tonight(Sat.)... It's Monday now and I'm into it a ways. Fun and crazy stuff. Along the lines of "Billy Bathgate" but another step further out there. Tons of language fun if you're up for it. If you're in some dire medical straits... lay off the alliteration. Uses the "N" word constantly and women are referred to as "slits". I'm not sure where the satire is so far. Day two and I came across some to ...more
Brenda K.
Mar 10, 2013 Brenda K. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The following review is from my Books That Matter blog. Please feel free to comment, or to check out the blog for other reviews!

Although it seems like I travel often enough, my trips of the past couple of years have been mostly for conferences, book festivals and other events where I read from Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, gamely hoping to connect with new readers.

Over the holidays, however, my partner and I took a “vacation,” that is, we traveled for the purpose of being purposeless, which i
James Dekens
Aug 01, 2013 James Dekens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So many characters in this book deserve their own novel. My personal favourite was the German immigrant head doctor at an insane asylum who also happens to own a baseball club and fills the team with players from said insane asylum. This is just one character and one story from a book filled with both. And while so many of the characters are complete batshit, they are also archetypes of any baseball story. There are players obsessed with luck and statistics, managers who consider baseball a divi ...more
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
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“But they don't deserve to be winning!"
"And who does in this world, Roland? Only the gifted and the beautiful and the brave? What about the rest of us, Champ? What about the wretched, for example? What about the weak and the lowly and the desperate and the fearful and the deprived, to name but a few who come to mind? What about losers? What about failures? What about the ordinary fucking outcasts of this world - who happen to comprise ninety percent of the human race! Don't they have dreams, Agni? Don't they have hopes? Just who told you clean-cut bastards own the world anyway? Who put you clean-cut bastards in charge, that's what I'd like to know! Oh, let me tell you something. All-American Adonis : you fair-haired sons of bitches have had your day. It's all over, Agni. We're not playing according to your clean-cut rules anymore - we're playing according to our own! The Revolution has begun! Henceforth the Mundys are the master race! Long live Glorious Mundy!”
“Now obviously, in peacetime a one-legged catcher, like a one-armed outfielder (such as the Mundys had roaming right), would have been at the most a curiosity somewhere down in the dingiest town in the minors - precisely where Hot had played during the many years that the nations of the world lived in harmony. But it is one of life's grisly ironies that what is catastrophe for most of mankind, invariably works to the advantage of a few who live on the fringes of the human community. On the other hand, it is a grisly irony to live on the fringes of the human community.” 4 likes
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