Seth's Reviews > American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
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Jul 10, 07


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 brother or the loathsome little “revolutionary” who detests her haute bourgeoisie upbringing).

I was also highly confused about the narrative premise itself. It is a book about something an author (who is a character in the novel) imagines to have taken place. Besides heaping ambiguity (the monosodium glutamate of literature) over the whole dish, what does this accomplish? Perhaps I missed something.

All that said, Roth is a fine writer of unimpeachable competency. Any idea he has, he can communicate it flawlessly. Unfortunately his prose, though not boilerplate in the affected Hemingwayan manner, remains, well, prosaic.

As for the plot, it’s good, and keeps you reading. I would have never criticized the book had it not been so relentlessly hyped (having been placed in the New York Times top-10 books of the last 25 years list), Roth so exalted, and American Pastoral so invariably cited as his magnum opus.

I found the ending disappointing, but by that time I had already been let down and was completing a chore. If I only I could have found this book without ever hearing anything about it first, I would have been left with this:

Hey, that was a good book. Smart. Wise in places. I enjoyed it, and I’ll soon forget all about it. Except when I look at leather gloves.
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trivialchemy So that's where it went.


James Seth,

I agree with you that by the end it felt like a chore reading it. I remember anticipating, greatly, the last page, paragraph, and sentence. The plot itself was seems like it was long-winded as Roth's language was at times verbose.

All in all, since I didn't hear all the hype, my best friend's sister recommended it to me with a simply "just read it" comment. So I was luckily saved of the overzealous praise that destroys some many Art experiences, music, movies, and books.

There were some insights on human behavior, most already familiar to me, but ones presented in a way with incisive wit that was sometimes disarming, which allowed be to enjoy this book for the most part. Although, at times I was considering putting it down unfinished.

My review doesn't quite reflect these comments,
but this is because I was trying to lay out what I got from the book, not what I didn't. I suppose a good review does both.

Anyway, let me know what you think of mine.

-James-


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