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The Great American Novel

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,406 ratings  ·  103 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

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Unknown Binding, 400 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by Holt McDougal
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Alex
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
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Brian Levinson
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
Jim Leckband
"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
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Dave Russell
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
Ryan
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
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Jon Sindell
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
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Kevin
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
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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
Daniel
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
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cheeseblab
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
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Malcolm
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
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
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
Joshua
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.
Eric
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.
Kerfe
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.
Gregory
Aug 23, 2007 Gregory rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Commie Shortstops
The Rupert Mundy's were a sight to behold.
Tim
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
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
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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.
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
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James Dekens
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
Reenie
So for the record, the answer to the obvious question: What American novel does the GAN most resemble?

- Pretty much anything by Thomas Pynchon.

Partly because it's farce, and satire, and hilariously ridiculous, but also generally what one might term (if one was feeling particularly archaic, or in need of alliteration) as a 'rollicking ride' - it has some of that same ability to make chaos into something that pulls you along with it even when you don't quite know why one thing turns into another t
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Carol Storm
I've never been a fan of Philip Roth. And I really hate him for being so mean to poor Claire Bloom!

But this book is really funny. It's the most outrageous, irreverent, sexual, and scatalogical book ever written about baseball. It's exactly like having Howard Stern rewrite THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES as a porno movie! Then again, it's also like THE BAD NEWS BEARS if it was directed by Stanley Kubrick as a sequel to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

The year is 1943. The Ruppert Mundys, the last place team in the o
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Ryan
May 16, 2008 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pinch hitting midgets, peg-legged shortstops, one armed outfielders, murderous fireballers
I have a tradition ever year that I read a novel about baseball during spring training to get myself in the mood for the upcoming season. Novelists seem to have a way of describing this game that really resonates with me. They are drawn to the same fantastic element of this child's game played by grown men that engages me for so much of the year every year.

I bought an old used hardcover of this book a few years ago but never really felt ready to tackle it. That title felt a little too heavy for
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Caleb Mason
I love baseball and this is a book all about baseball, written with the Roth great wit and seemingly an opportunity for the author to just vomit out every funny thing one can imagine about baseball. Gil Gamesh (Gilgamesh) and Luke Gofannon (Luke goes striking out) and a whole bunch of made-up names and places get this off to a great start. But about half way through I had had enough. Just too much of the same for a novel. But that aside, Roth is a writer worth reading and I will return to his ot ...more
Jake Berlin
very clever, and very funny. you don't need to like baseball to enjoy it, but it would help. it has the makings of a truly great novel until roth goes off the rails for the last quarter of the book, taking it in a new (and undesirable, in my opinion) direction. still, some excellent word play and some wonderful americana.
Bill O'driscoll
My annual baseball book this year (and the first fiction installment of same) was Roth's virtuoso comic novel about a mythical professional baseball team in a mythical league during WWII, when times are so tough the club has to play all its games on the road -- with a one-legged catcher, a 90-pound second-baseman and basically no pitching. But it's not just a baseball book -- it's an hilarious social satire about the times, the sport and American culture in general. And it's one of the funniest ...more
Karen Willis
I guess I'm getting better about giving up on books. Because I just gave up on another one - almost 100 pages in. And it's a big book. I have never read anything by Roth and at this point may never try to again!~ I just don't get it...
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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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American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman

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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!”
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“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.” 3 likes
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