Peter's Reviews > Goodbye, Columbus

Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
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Mar 08, 08

Read in February, 2008

If Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the New York novella about flirting with the city’s upper crust, then Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus is the suburban story for the rest of us.

A coming-of-age story about a summer romance, it plumbs tensions from class, generational, religious, and educational differences, and it does so in a way that is instinctive and visceral. While not the most self-aware, sensitive, or rational, the story’s characters—Neil Klugman, a twenty-three year-old man from the poor neighborhoods of Newark, and Brenda Patimkin, the privileged and pretty young woman from Short Hills—are caught in the throes of imminent adulthood, and their flailing pulls Roth’s readers further and further into the personal tensions that drive the story.

The result is that Goodbye, Columbus is about as human a novella as I know—human in the character’s confusion about their feelings and human in their often-irrational responses to these feelings.

Do I recommend it? Yes. A complex but natural read.
Would I teach it? Yes, but it would have to be to the right group. The writing is rich with meaning and ripe for discussion, but some of the content (though a remarkably small amount of it) might seem dated or awkward.
Lasting impression: Tightly and creatively constructed, Goodbye, Columbus offers sharp insight into and humor about the vicissitudes of burgeoning adult romance.
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