Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “American Pastoral” as Want to Read:
American Pastoral
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1)

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  29,484 ratings  ·  2,104 reviews
"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. 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 Am ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published May 12th 1997 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 1997)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about American Pastoral, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Santiago Ortiz Nothing that Rita does tell us she's a maniacal of any kind…she's a mysterious character with a hidden agenda, that certainly acts very strangely, but…moreNothing that Rita does tell us she's a maniacal of any kind…she's a mysterious character with a hidden agenda, that certainly acts very strangely, but we don't know her motives.

Talking about american morals, which is a main topic in this book, it strikes me that americans tend to find more perturbing an explicit sex scene than extreme violence (something also present in this book).

This is a rather complex book, without clear resolution, morally and psychologically convoluted, I wouldn't recommend it to a 15 year old reader. I agree with Raymond, 15 is the perfect age to read sexual and violent contents (and 16, and 17, and…), but there are other more "transparent" options… what about The Power of The Dog?, or 100 years of solitude? or any book by Henry Miller?…(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Samadrita
A quick perusal of my 'in-by-about-America' shelf will reveal a wide variety of titles ranging from popular fiction by the likes of Stephen King to the brand of post-modernist razzmatazz by the wonderfully perplexing Pynchon. Yet none of those books seem as American to me as American Pastoral is. Forget all the Great American Novels which swoop down on some of the 'Great American Issues' (this term is my invention yes!) like the Great Depression, racism, slavery, brutal and merciless killing of ...more
Caleb
You figure "hey, it's Philip Roth. All sorts of awards. Might as well read his Pulitzer Prize winner. Can't be half bad, can it? can't be that bad. He's got other good stuff. This one must be good, too."

American Pastoral defies logic with its terrible, terrible writing. This was one of the most boring, most difficult to force myself through books I've ever read. Roth has clearly become more of an old man, rambling on and on about the good ole days of Newark, America, the countryside, glovemakin
...more
William
The book starts off as an homage to a man the narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, looked up to as a child because of his athletic achievements in local sports: Seymour Levov, the "Swede." It also presents itself in the early going as an homage to the so-called "greatest generation." But this opening is deceptive. For the closer we come to the Swede and his family the more we see his tragic flaws of character. Perhaps his most pervasive flaw is to be a nonthinker, a man for the most part without a deep i ...more
Tuckova
I didn't finish it. I realized that life is probably too short, and certainly I read too slowly, to spend another minute with Philip Roth. He's Jewish, did you know? JEWISH. Also, he is a man. Men have penises, did you know? PENISES! that are very important and special self-starting things, and when they don't work it is an AMERICAN TRAGEDY, and when they do, well they just do stuff and we observe all of that with some very pretty sentences that almost distract a person from how we're basically ...more
CK
OK let me just say that I am so. excited. about this book. My friend Cal recommended it to me a while back, and I finally got around to it. OH MY GOSH I've been missing out on Philip Roth! He is now my new favorite author. I know that's a rash judgment to make based on one book, but it's just that good.

Cal and I love a lot of the same books for entirely different reasons, which is fun. To put it simplistically (which I hate to do), Cal gets more excited about story / character development and I
...more
brain
Jan 20, 2008 brain rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: David Koresh, Roger Clemens, my asshole neighbor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
matt

The reason there is "shattering" shelf in my book list is because of a professor I had back in undergrad a million years ago. Her name was Marjorie, and she was great- smart as hell, kind, maternal, worldly. Her specialty was Chinese philosophy and Feminism. I think she had a bad go on a stairwell or something and she fractured her leg. She was on sick leave for several months as her bones reset and she basically learned to walk again.

When she got back (we were on friendly terms throughout, ev
...more
James
Sep 09, 2008 James rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gerald Floman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Seth
Clearly a lot of research went into this book. I only wish Roth hadn’t been so compelled to show off every single trinket of minutiae, arcania, and esoterica (yes, I invent words when necessary) that he could acquire relating to the glove-making industry in New Jersey.

The book is unquestionably too long, and the political allegory can feel a bit oppressive as one strives to believe in characters that remain just short of plausible (excepting a few bit players, such as the bullying heart surgeon
...more
AC
What an astonishing, magnificent book -- and tour de force -- I will leave it to the reader to discover whether it is a tragedy or a comedy...

I listened to this book on audible -- it is read by Ron Silver, the actor -- and his performance is magnificent. The whole felt like a long one-act play.
Wynne
This is the most self-indulgent, pointless book I have ever read. I would string together a series of poorly crafted run-on sentences to attempt to describe this terrible work, but then I would be simply imitating Roth.

I wish that I had the hours that it took me to read this book back. I also wish that Roth's editor would come to my apartment so that I could punch her/him in the face. An utterly pointless story coupled with, as aforementioned, ridiculously self-indulgent and dense prose, made t
...more
Reese
Consider Einstein's definition of "insanity," selected by 12,209 Goodreads readers as one of their favorite quotations: "Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Chutzpah: Pointing out the incompleteness of a genius's definition. Nevertheless, I'm proposing the inclusion of the words "in a laboratory." Yes, we often get nowhere by repeatedly doing what doesn't work. Meet Roth's (or Nate Zuckerman's) Seymour Levov, who desperately wants recollection and ...more
Steve
As I neared the end of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, I couldn’t help but recall Henry James’s tag about Russian novels being “loose and baggy monsters,” and how I might apply that description to Roth’s effort. This is my third Roth (Goodbye Columbus and Everyman being the other two), and my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite a read, a sheer avalanche of words, emotions, history, characters, and glove making. There’s a real whiteness-of-the-whale accumulation of details here that s ...more
Vale
Cosa sei, tu? Lo sai? Tu sei quello che è sempre lì a cercare di minimizzare le cose. Sempre lì che si sforza di essere moderato. Mai dire la verità, se credi che possa ferire i sentimenti di qualcuno. Sempre pronto ai compromessi.

Seymour Levov , "lo Svedese", rappresenta il viso bello dell'America; l'assunto secondo il quale l'uomo abbia diritto alla felicità nella vita, come riporta la Costituzione americana, e che lo Stato si debba prodigare verso questo alto principio.
Seymour è alto, biondo,
...more
Aban
For me, this novel as a writing workshop, in brief, shows how a writer such Mr. Philip Roth, with so wonderful language, manages to get to the bottom of characters' trauma and delves deep into so much extended numbers of flesh and blood issues. Surely, as a distinguished Ruthian treatment of American society, this masterpiece of lit, Pulitzer Prize winner, so provocative, so terribly bitter and hair-raising, more often than not, demands a philosophical minded reader who could keep peace with the ...more
Lucrezia
"Rimane il fatto che, in ogni modo, capire la gente non è vivere. Vivere è capirla male, capirla male e male e poi male e, dopo un attento riesame, ancora male. Ecco come sappiamo di essere vivi: sbagliando. Forse la cosa migliore sarebbe dimenticare di aver ragione o torto sulla gente e godersi semplicemente la gita. Ma se ci riuscite... Beh, siete fortunati."

Philip Roth è entrato di gran carriera nella schiera degli scrittori americani che rispetto a di fronte al quale non posso tacere e ascol
...more
Luís Miguel
Naquele tempo... porque, este livro merece a apresentação mais digna que lhe posso dar. Vamos lá, de novo:

Pastoral - “Poesia idílica, em regra dialogada, sobre assunto pastoril. Peça de música que tem por tema a vida campestre. Carta-circular dirigida por um bispo aos padres e aos fiéis de sua diocese.”

Pastoral Americana apresenta o narrador, alter-ego de Roth, Nathan Zuckerman e em seguida liga-nos ao “Sueco”. Essa personagem enorme toma-nos em tentáculos, tudo gira à volta do Sueco e ele não
...more
Lisa
Basically this book is an etiology. "Etiology" is a word I learned from the author, Philip Roth, who likes to use big words. Etiology is the study of the causes of disease. In American Pastoral, Swede Levov expends his life trying to determine the cause of the disease that claimed his daughter, made her a murderer and turned her into a nut, and this becomes an allegory for whatever it is that undermines the American promises of prosperity, civic order and domestic bliss.

Maybe that sounds boring
...more
Justin Evans
Here's what I hope is true: Philip Roth wrote this book, narrated by 'Nathan Zuckerman,' in order to criticize the hero-worship to which Zuckerman/Roth is liable at times, as evidenced in the first of the Zuckerman novels. He wrote it to reveal the stupidity, self-satisfaction and arrogance of baby-boomer generation Americans, who think everything was great when they were kids, think everything's crap now, and think this is the fault of everybody else. He particularly wrote it to show how extrem ...more
Malbadeen
When people highly recommend a book, talk about it for years in your presence, refer to it with a familiarity that makes you feel like you've missed a great moment at a party there is a reluctancy to actually commit to reading that book. For me, anyways. What if I don't like it? What if I don't "get it"? What if their opinions have penetrated my consciousness so much that I can't see it objectively?
And yet, I persevered and think I can safely say that, I too, LOVED this book! I finished it on a
...more
aidan w-m
stalled 200 pages in--will have to reread.
Sandra
E' il primo libro di Philip Roth che leggo e di sicuro non sarà l'ultimo.
Il romanzo ha una struttura narrativa basata su flashback dentro flasback, che a volte rendono difficoltosa la lettura, ma mai pesante nè noiosa.
Una scrittura meravigliosa, nella quale neppure una parola è inappropriata né un pensiero ridondante.
La storia è narrata dallo scrittore Nathan Zuckerman, "alter ego" di Roth, che nel 1995 incontra un suo vecchio compagno di scuola, Seymour Levov detto lo Svedese, un ebreo ameri
...more
Maya Rock
Hmm. Well Matt and I had one of our more heated discussions about this book.

I basically don't like anything by Philip Roth.

What prompted the argument...I mean heated discussion...was one of my primary reasons for disliking the book. I will sum that up now and then give the example that led to the heated discussion.

I don't like this book because Philip Roth romanticizes the past in a particular white middle-aged man way that is kind of grating because that past was of course built on the backs of
...more
Yulia
I found this an impossible read because the central character, Swede Levov, was utterly implausible. He was too handsome, too kind, too modest, too tortured, too innocent(!), but what he was not was real. He was a fantasy. And to all who say they've known a Swede in their lives I'd guess they didn't know that person very well at all. They were too busy gazing from afar at their gorgeous marble idol with its beautiful tears.

Should I blame the fictional Nathan Zuckerman and not the actual Philip
...more
K.D. Absolutely
This is my 5th Pulitzer award winning fiction. I rated all the others with 4 or 5 stars but this one is a star lower. I almost rated it with 2 but I guess my heavy workload this week and my birthday made me a bit tired to appreciate the beauty of the story.

At this point, it seems to me that Pulitzer awards stories about families and as I read in this website, preferably in American setting. So, two of the previous books I read like THE GRAPES OF WRATH, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and OLIVE KITTERIDGE
...more
Jonathan Peto
Twenty years ago Bill C. in my friends list suggested I read Philip Roth. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to it, Bill. A lot amazed me here. A lot. I read a Philip Roth quote somewhere in which Roth praised Jonathan Franzen. I can see that. From what I've read, both of them write ambitious books that attempt to say something about our/their times, the Great American Novel genre. One reason this story interested me is because Roth is older and I enjoyed learning about an earlier ...more
Joshua West
American Pastoral reads like a critique of the New Left of the 1960s and 70s by an individual who seems to have absolutely no knowledge of the New Left. There are certainly plenty of worthy criticisms to be made but instead of engaging with any of these Roth tries to psychologize away the youth's opposition to the war in Vietnam. As if the only possible reason one might feel indignation against a system that could kill 3 million civilians is because of unresolved daddy issues.
Roth thinks he is m
...more
Sentimental Surrealist
A damn, damn sight better than Portnoy's Complaint, because it proved to me once and for all that Roth was more interested in writing about more than himself, and because thirty years honed his prose style into something terrific, full of perfectly chosen words that give his sentences all varieties of impact. It also helped him write these full real characters like Merry and the poor Swede. I still have my issues with the guy - his narcissism could hardly be more obvious, as it's all about how t ...more
Aaron
In its way, “American Pastoral” (and the entire America Trilogy) is Roth’s true Bellow novel, an old left response to “Mr. Sammler’s Planet.” “Pastoral” is also the best novel about terrorism written by an American novelist, but one concerned with the human ramifications, not the ideology of motivation. Properly speaking, it is not really political at all, it is social, but a society at its most basic unit. This is not “The Wire,” there is no nihilistic attack on the system. Instead, it is peopl ...more
Loes Dissel
My third read of this astonishing masterpiece and I loved it !
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Some books are too truthful for some readers 32 202 Nov 08, 2014 12:09PM  
why do people like this so much? 11 191 Oct 26, 2011 01:48PM  
Constant Reader 375 378 Dec 25, 2008 01:46PM  
Zuckerman Order!? 2 53 Mar 05, 2008 02:14PM  
  • The Store
  • Honey in the Horn
  • The Edge of Sadness
  • Elbow Room
  • In This Our Life
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
  • Guard of Honor
  • Scarlet Sister Mary
  • Journey in the Dark
  • Dragon's Teeth
  • Years of Grace
  • The Able McLaughlins
  • Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
  • Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady
  • The Late George Apley
  • Now in November
  • His Family
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner
463
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
More about Philip Roth...
Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories

Share This Book

“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you.” 281 likes
“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense.” 194 likes
More quotes…