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American Pastoral

(The American Trilogy #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  56,991 ratings  ·  4,158 reviews
Pulitzer Prize Winner (1998)

In American Pastoral, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all the twentieth century's promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss. Roth's protagonist is Seymour 'Swede' Levov—a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 5th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Jd Don't underestimate a 15 year old reader. When I was 12, I've read Flowers in the Attic...this is nowhere close. If the 15 year old wants to read…moreDon't underestimate a 15 year old reader. When I was 12, I've read Flowers in the Attic...this is nowhere close. If the 15 year old wants to read it...celebrate the fact that he or she can read.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  56,991 ratings  ·  4,158 reviews


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Caleb Tankersley
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was not a fan.
Michael Finocchiaro
It is getting exceedingly rare to find books that are well-written and yet hard-hitting and surprising at nearly every turn. Usually, you get just one (like the nearly unreadable Infinite Jest that I can still not get through) or the other (like The Outfit or, say, Game of Thrones). So, when my movie producer friend mentioned that his employer Lakeshore Entertainment would be releasing a film version of Roth’s American Pastoral, I picked the book up (my first by Roth) and I was blown away. It is ...more
William2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, fiction, us
Third reading. 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 ...more
Tuckova
Mar 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
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
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
Em Lost In Books
"Everybody who flashed the signs of intelligence he took to be intelligent. And so he had failed to see into his daughter, failed to see into his wife, failed to see into his one and only mistress - probably had never even begun to see into himself. What was he, stripped of all the signs he flashed? People were standing up everywhere shouting, "This is me! This is me!" Every time you looked at them they stood up and told you who they were, and the truth of it was that they had no more idea of ...more
Duane
1998 Pulitzer Prize
Time Magazines 100 best novels

I read my fair share of books and most of those are "classics", so usually, as a whole, they are highly rated, highly regarded books. But even with that, occasionally a book comes along that raises it's head above the rest. This is one of those books for me. It's difficult to explain this book to others, even difficult to completely understand myself, because it doesn't flow in a straight line like most books, non-linear I think they call it. But
...more
David Schaafsma
This is Roth's masterpiece, in case you want to read one or two of his books, now that he is gone. Apparently Philip Roth was a difficult man. He had a reputation, by his own admission, as a cad, a bounder, profligate. "Reputation," which doesn't mean it is true, though it may be. His ex-wife, the actress Claire Bloom, with whom he lived for something like 18 years, castigates him in a memoir that makes him look almost psychotically ruthless, I seem to recall from reviews (never read the book, ...more
Julie
American Pastoral by Philip Roth is a 1997 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication.

This book doesn’t need much of an analysis from me, especially since so many have voiced such eloquent and poignant reviews of ‘one of the best novels ever written’, and have broken it down and analyzed it in great qualified detail.

However, I did have a few random thoughts about the book-



The book is not upbeat, not once, not ever. It’s moody, sad, and weighted down with the heaviness of yearning, regret, and
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Matthew
My awareness of this book came from my wife and some of her friends from college. It was legendary as the single most awful experience during their first four years of higher education. You would think that would keep me away . . . But, after several years of putting it off I finally said, "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"

It was not the worst book I have ever read. It was not the greatest book I have ever read. I have seen some people sing it's praises as vehemently as the loathing my wife and her friends
...more
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,
...more
Fabian
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Everyone knows just how completely mad I am for “The Human Stain.” I think it really is one of the most brilliant books of all time—seriously. Roth is famous for his prose, for his lengthy sentences which in turn become lengthy paragraphs. The Pulitzer Prize was given prematurely in this instance, for "American Pastoral" has just an ounce of the brilliance of his later work (which still won awards, though not THAT one). This one is unnecessarily long because it deals with one central event, with ...more
brain
Nov 25, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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.
Robin
Overwritten, self-indulgent version of Paradise Lost

I have mixed feelings about this 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning book. On one hand, I am enamoured with the power and grandness of the story, which is brought out by zoning in on one man, Seymour "The Swede" Levov. He is the beautiful American archetype, living in an idyllic countryside... then all goes to shit. His daughter Merry baffles and betrays all that he is when she becomes an uncontrollable teenager who resorts to acts of terrorism in
...more
Jr Bacdayan
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read an article about a year ago that supposedly describes Philip Roth’s rituals every time they announce a new Nobel Prize winner for Literature. It allegedly goes something like every year he travels to his agent’s office in New York awaiting the precious call. And every year it doesn’t come so he goes back home to Connecticut with his head down. This is all merely gossip, but I think that if this were true, it really reflects the attitude of what many people say is his magnum opus.

This is
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Violet wells
Should be a five star book and would have been with a good editor. As it stands Roth’s self-pleasuring digressions, his pedantic cataloging of sideshow detail kept spoiling it for me. Still a brilliant achievement but there were times when I wished Saul Bellow had written it.
Jan Rice
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having just completed my reread of American Pastoral, I want to begin my updated review in an unusual way, with two quotes from authors that are not Philip Roth:

Tornadoes are a good metaphor for how bad things happen in our lives. They build from small disturbances that usually don't mean a thing and almost always dissipate. But somehow one particular random event attracts others, and all of them together grow and attract more nasty stuff. Once it gets up to a critical size, the odds of it
...more
CK
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Ted
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ted by: Jr Bacdayan
Yes, the breach had been pounded in their fortification, even out here in secure old Rimrock, and now that it was opened it would not be closed again… All the voices from without, condemning and rejecting their life!


A reviewer, normal, long-winded, often boring.
That reviewer's alter ego, may think he's more interesting, but actually quite like the former
An author, Roth by name
A fictional author, Nathan Zuckerman, who has many apparent links to the latter



The sixth (by publication date) of Roth's
...more
Bradley
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
T. S. Eliot said it clearer.

But, I will grudgingly admit, there were a lot of things to love about this novel, even if I never fell IN love with it.

What I liked most was the transformation of all these identical events from "all-surface" from the beginning to the nearly mad-ramblings of internal monologue by the end. There was no sharp delineation. It was like I was being boiled alive like a lobster, learning that all the good and true things of the world are, in fact, illusion and subterfuge,
...more
Perry
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Swede's Worst Nightmare: Detonating Daughter, Disintegrated Marriage


Weather Underground Motto, quoted in American Pastoral
"We are against everything that is good and decent in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mothers' nightmares."
*4.4 stars*



The most popular guy in Newark's Weequahic High School Class of 1945, Seymour "Swede" Levov, who was the school's star athlete in 3 sports, was called Swede due to his blonde hair, blue eyes and Nordic
...more
Darwin8u
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
“There are no reasons. She is obliged to be as she is. We all are. Reasons are in books.”
― Philip Roth, American Pastoral

description
Jeffery Pugh's Tree Huggers

Wow. I remember reading Underworld and thinking, "why didn't it win more awards?" Perhaps, it is simply the small issue of it was published in the same year as 'American Pastoral'. The idea of two great American Novels, one Jewish and one WASP, both published in 1997 -- is absolutely incredible. Order meets chaos. Civilization is unraveled. The
...more
Chrissie
The central theme of this book concerns a father’s love for his daughter who commits a reprehensible deed, a misdeed that is scarcely forgivable. That one misdeed becomes several. The daughter, Merry, (view spoiler), with full cognizance and intent. The deeds are planned. The relationship between the daughter and her parents disintegrates totally. Who is responsible? Any parent would ask this.

The father, Seymour Levov, nicknamed the “Swede”, is tall, blond and
...more
Seth
Jun 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gabrielle
I discovered Philip Roth last summer, when I picked up a used copy of "The Human Stain" and proceeded to have my mind completely blown by both the story and Roth's incredible writing. I wasn't sure what to expect when I decided to dive into "American Pastoral": when you fall in love with a book and pursue the author's other works, you always run the risk of being severely disapointed - and people seem to either love or hate this book with a suprising passion…

I'm happy to report that I was not
...more
Wynne
Aug 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
...more
El
Back in late 2004 I had a lot of things happening: I had just gone through a significant break-up in October of that year, I had a bit of an uncomfortable situation with a not-so-secret-admirer sniffing around where I worked at the time, and I was in the early stages of a new relationship that I wasn't sure I wanted to even be a relationship. That December I was having a hard enough time reading one page, let alone finishing any actual books.

I picked up Philip Roth's The Plot Against America
...more
Steven Godin
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: america, fiction
I hold Philip Roth in quite high regards and would liken him to a bottle of vintage fine wine, his books might not be the most exciting page turners in the world but they are deep, thoughtful, intelligent and slow burning(a retired history professor reading a Roth novel with a cuban cigar and a swig of brandy comes to mind!), and although from what I have read of his work so far this would be my least favourite it's not the sinking ship that others have made it out to be, yes at times it was ...more
Julie
I read the first 200 pages of this novel doubled over, with my intestines twisted in a knot. For the next 100 pages I held the book limply in my hand, reading it while crouched in a fetal position. I think I lost a tooth on page 400. Reading this book is not as simple as not being able to avert your eyes from the train wreck. No, it also involves gathering the bloody victims from the accident, transporting them alone to the ER, and then performing the surgeries, unqualified, when you find no ...more
Glenn Sumi
Wow. What a magnificent, overwritten, powerful, inventive, angry and necessary book. I am stunned into submission and admiration.
Review to follow after I read something much, much lighter.
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Philip Roth... is...: Starting to read American Pastoral 5 16 Jan 27, 2019 02:11PM  
Goodreads România: Citeste cu mine: Pastorala americana, de Philip Roth (3.5* din 4 voturi) 43 78 Jan 07, 2019 01:35AM  
Book Club: American Pastoral 1 2 Dec 05, 2018 10:45AM  
Tackling the Puli...: American Pastoral (Philip Roth, 1998) 15 39 Jun 01, 2018 07:05PM  
Book Club discussion 4 44 Jun 30, 2017 07:19PM  
Some books are too truthful for some readers 39 393 Dec 11, 2016 08:30PM  

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4,880 followers
Philip Milton Roth was 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 ...more

Other books in the series

The American Trilogy (3 books)
  • I Married a Communist (The American Trilogy, #2)
  • The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3)
“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.” 437 likes
“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense.” 312 likes
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