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The Great American Novel

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The Great American Novel.

448 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Philip Roth

246 books6,452 followers
Witty and ironic fiction of noted American writer Philip Milton Roth includes the novels Portnoy's Complaint (1969), American Pastoral (1997), and The Human Stain (2000).

He gained early literary fame with the collection Goodbye, Columbus (1959), winner of National Book Award of 1960, cemented this fame with his bestseller, and continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The novels of Zuckerman began with The Ghost Writer in 1979 and include winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In May 2011, he won the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 243 reviews
Profile Image for Davide.
488 reviews103 followers
October 15, 2018
Non so niente del baseball.
E quel poco che so mi pare di molto noioso.
Quindi le tre stelle sono un voto molto alto.
Ma forse ne do solo due: allora bisogna dire che non credevo che avrei mai assegnato solo due stelle a un libro di Philip Roth.

Un elemento che è presente praticamente in tutti i suoi libri è l’accelerazione iperbolica e comica, che era più evidente nella prima parte della sua produzione e veniva portata all’estremo, senza mescolarsi direttamente con i dilemmi esistenziali, in una serie di opere più completamente parodiche e satiriche (Our Gang, The Breast…). Ecco, questo Great American Novel appartiene in pieno a questa linea.
E va benissimo, ma scattano subito una serie di problemi: la girandola di giochi di parole, invenzioni linguistiche, preziosismi stilistici è spesso praticamente intraducibile; i riferimenti molto puntuali a regole, usi e costumi del baseball in molti casi sono necessari non solo per apprezzare meglio ma proprio per comprendere letteralmente quello che sta succedendo; alcune trovate ironiche, satiriche e grottesche sono divertenti ma trascinate troppo in lungo, fino a perdere ritmo.
E alla fine non so se ho davvero pienamente colpito (è il verbo babilonese per capito...) l’idea di fondo, tutto il “complotto” che elimina da ogni ricordo e testimonianza l’esistenza stessa della Patriot League.

Non mancano però i momenti godibili e divertenti, in particolare quando si sta dietro alla voce del vecchio cronista di baseball fanatico delle allitterazioni Word Smith. Fin dall'inizio si capisce che il titolo deve essere inteso in senso parodico: «Chiamatemi Smitty.» E seguono infatti incontri con Hem (o Papa…); revisioni-riscritture dei possibili concorrenti alla palma del “grande romanzo americano”: da Hawthorne a Mark Twain, a Melville. E verso la fine si rivela che alcuni giocatori e dirigenti della Lega sono agenti russi comunisti che si chiamano in realtà Smerdjakov, Raskol’nikov, Stavrogin...

Insomma, vorrei poter concludere con le parole del funambolico (e forse diabolico) proprietario dei Kakoola Reaper, Frank Mazuma: «Smitty, vorrei che fosse stata un’idea mia. Chiunque sia riuscito a mettere in scena uno spettacolo come quello è proprio il genio incantatore di folle che vorrei diventare. Ma in tutta onestà devo dirti che a mio avviso quel che è successo là dentro all’inizio del quinto inning è stato programmato dall’incantatore di folle più grande di tutti: un certo Dio.»
Ma non so se posso farlo.
Profile Image for Ubik 2.0.
919 reviews223 followers
April 10, 2018
La squadra più scalcinata della Lega

Che la scarsa conoscenza delle regole del baseball e delle profonde implicazioni di questo sport sul costume e la società americane non costituisca un handicap alla piena comprensione di questo libro (direi per il 99% degli italiani, sottoscritto compreso…) è una pia illusione.

Sia perché si tratta di un gioco di per sé piuttosto complicato e dotato di regole ancor meno intuitive dell’Eschaton, sia perché è tradizionalmente corredato da un apparato di calcoli, record e statistiche maniacale, imparagonabile a qualsiasi altro sport, come vediamo continuamente citare nei film, nei romanzi, nei fumetti e in quasi tutte le espressioni che ci provengono dall’altra parte dell’Atlantico.

Ciò nonostante, il talento di Roth è tale da travolgere anche noi lettori europei ignoranti in una sarabanda divertentissima di personaggi, eventi, telecronache, partite sempre più demenziali, con al centro dell’azione l’ineffabile squadra dei Ruppert Mundy, infarcita di psicolabili, storpi, nani, caratteriali, giocatori addirittura privi di un arto. Questa stranezza dovrebbe originare dal fatto che milioni di giovani americani sani si trovano sul fronte europeo o asiatico nel periodo (1941-43) in cui si svolge la maggior parte della vicenda.

Resistendo all’impatto con l’impegnativo prologo, dove alle difficoltà sopra citate si aggiunge un io narrante affetto da un tic compulsivo per le allitterazioni (!), ci si rende conto man mano che si procede che ci si trova al cospetto dell’opera più esilarante del grandissimo maestro americano; lo humour che pure sottende altri romanzi di Roth diventa qui un irresistibile divertimento, tanto che spesso ci si ritrova a ridacchiare fra sé per il sapiente connubio fra situazioni tratte dalla realtà vissuta del mondo del baseball e un gusto surreale del paradosso che non ritenevo facesse parte a tal punto del ricchissimo arsenale dialettico dell’autore.

E quando già abbondantemente divertiti, a circa ¾ del “Grande Romanzo Americano” sopraggiunge un pizzico di sazietà e si insinua una sensazione di ripetitività nelle diverse storie che lo compongono, con un’imprevedibile virata Roth trasforma il grande gioco sportivo nella paranoia di un grande complotto sovversivo che ribalta le prospettive, richiamando chiaramente temi e argomenti del maccartismo anticomunista e attribuendo a manager, giocatori ed arbitri pseudonimi tratti dalla letteratura russa, che in qualche modo fanno pendant con i classici americani (Hemingway, Twain, Hawthorne, Melville) parodiati nella prima parte del libro.

Insomma, un Roth sfrenato e travolgente che fa dello sport ciò che aveva appena fatto del sesso in “Lamento di Portnoy” [1969], in un periodo effervescente della sua formidabile carriera (“La nostra Gang”[1971] “Il seno” [1973], opere peraltro meno riuscite di questa) in cui appare particolarmente propenso alla sperimentazione e alla sovversione delle regole canoniche del romanzo; altro che “Grande Romanzo Americano”!
Profile Image for Read By RodKelly.
205 reviews757 followers
May 31, 2020
No no no no no.

This is a terrible novel. There is a sickening amount of racism and misogyny, and I understand the satirical and parodic nature of the story, but this crossed too many lines for me. The brilliant prologue could've been published as a novella; but unfortunately it precedes a novel that tries so hard to be crudely funny that Roth starts competing with himself to see how racist he can get away with being. Hard pass. Ugh.
Profile Image for Alex.
15 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2009
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 doesn't hold back one iota. It's all stylistic exuberance and hairpin plot twists. And yet his wisdom is apparent: the Great American Novel can hardly be anything but pastiche and a lengthy prologue does much to ridicule the other obvious contenders. It's as if Roth knows that the actual circumstances of the Cold War and Communist threat matter too much to be approached in any way other than the most mocking satire.
I think that the best advertisement I can make for this book is that, for a novel built around a sport I have never played and whose rules I do not understand, I was compelled throughout.
Profile Image for carl  theaker.
892 reviews42 followers
September 6, 2016
A complete, humorous, skewering of Major League Baseball, and by association, the media, politics, even literature, and Americanism in general. This could only be done so completely by a person who does have a love for the old ballgame.

This is a 1973 work of fiction, about a 1943 Baseball team with its bizarre set of players, coaches, and owners. All the various jokes, paradoxes, exposures and sarcasm, still work today 2016!

Perhaps because of the title, it’s not well known as a ‘baseball book’. I was greatly amused by it and I think most baseball fans, particularly if you are somewhat familiar with the ‘good old days’, say anywhere from the 1930s-1970s, would find it a goodread.
Profile Image for Jon Sindell.
Author 25 books31 followers
May 27, 2012
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 of fifteen (and returned years later to have a worthy career?)? Well, in this masterpiece of comic exaggeration, Roth creates a third major league, the Patriot League, and populates it with a one-legged catcher, a fifty-one year-old third baseman (named "Kid," naturally) and a circus tent full of other unworthies. But I'm not doing the book justice. It is a rich tapestry full of comic baseball goodness. The Shoeless Joe Jackson knock-off Lonesome Luke who loves one thing in life more than beautiful women: triples. The scene where he tell his heartbroken lover, in bed, that he loves triples more than her is worth the price of admission. And Gil Gamesh, the mythical sidearm Babylonian pitcher. And … and … look, it's like trying to paraphrase a comedian: the phrasing and timing are everything, and you just have to read it for yourself.

I have a hunch that Roth read The Glory of Their Times the oral history of old-time ballplayers, in researching this book--the dialogue is pitch perfect.

An unbelievably witty book.

I wish Roth wrote more like this one.
Profile Image for R..
897 reviews111 followers
September 6, 2021
What's the Frequency, Philip?

This is Roth's Monster, the big dumb sexy flashy creation that emulates and distorts his artistic heroes. For REM, it was 70s glam rockers, for Phil it's 30s sportswriters.

From this, we can see Portnoy's Complaint as his Out of Time: commercial breakthrough, the finding and establishment of The Voice, Goodbye Columbus as his Chronic Town: a big bang of creativity that announced The Arrival of a New and Unusual Talent, and the American Trilogy as Roth's New Adventures in Hi-Fi: a pyrotechnic elegy for the 20th Century.
Profile Image for Gauss74.
437 reviews79 followers
August 23, 2017
Sono motli i romanzi di Philip Roth che nascondono una fine vena umoristica nonostante satirici non lo siano affatto, tuttavia è davvero la prima volta che incontro lo scrittore di Newark che si cimenta con un romanzo dichiaratamente satirico. E lo fa raccontando il mondo delle competizioni sportive, che devo dire si presta in modo particolare in quanto abbina il suo essere uno svago per il tempo libero all' estremo e spesso esagerato consumo di emozioni ed energie psichiche da parte di di chi vi fa parte, sia esso tifoso o addetto ai lavori.
Essendo lo sport in questione il baseball, non ci dovrebbe essere romanzo più americano di questo, nè più difficile da leggere per chi non possieda almeno qualche rudimento di questo sport (non è il mio caso: ho avuto occasione di imparare il gioco quando da ragazzino ero nei boy scouts, e ho anche giocato qualche partita), ma in realtà non è così. Perchè questa azzeccatissima e divertente caricatura non sta parlando dello sport in sè ma del mondo che gli ruota attorno; un mondo fatto di polemiche gratuite, partite truccate, vite corrotte e distrutte dal vizio, fanatismi di ogni genere, cospirazioni le più incredibili a tutti i livelli, e non importa se siano vere o fasulle.
Conseguentemente per il lettore italiano non è affatto difficile (anzi è persino istintivo) tegliere questa maschera dall'immaginaria Patriot league e metterla alla purtroppo reale serie A di calcio: per scoprire con un' amara risata che tutte le storture e le deformazioni di cui Philip Roth si prende gioco si applicano alla pefezione anche al nostro sport organizzato.
Certo nella vita reale non si trovano giocatori con una gamba di legno, nani o bambini psicopatici; certo non troveremo una squadra che gioca in trasferta tutte le partite perchè ha venduto lo stadio, sostanze dopanti dentro i cereali della colazione o microfilm del KGB dentro le mazze da baseball.
Ma se pensiamo agli scandali del calcio scommesse, delle partite truccate, del doping; agli appalti truccati per la costruzione di stadi fatiscenti costati il doppio del dovuto; a giocatori che muoiono giovani di malattie misteriose o a gente con i nervi a pezzi che trova sfogo malmenandosi all'uscita da uno stadio; ed infine alla paranoia scandalistica con la quale su migliaia di pagine di giornale si cercano complotti di ogni genere dietro il più piccolo evento, ci si rende conto che non solo questo romanzo non è un romanzo "americano", ma anche che non è un romanzo satirico che serve solo a ridere ma anche a riflettere, e molto.
Profile Image for Joel Ortiz-Quintanilla.
58 reviews11 followers
July 23, 2008
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 the local bookstore and stole bout three of his books, this mr. roth sure is a wonderful writer, just when you think you've read it all, and then the breast comes in, mr. roth, you are a slick mother fucker.
Profile Image for Simone Subliminalpop.
667 reviews44 followers
April 23, 2015
Anche se non c’è Nathan Zuckerman e il romanzo parla molto di Baseball (sport per me alquanto noioso), vi si trova un Roth in splendida forma (come d’altronde quasi sempre nella sua produzione letteraria).
La storia della Patriot League, terza lega di baseball americano, e del suo declino diventano il pretesto per l’invenzione di tanti, tantissimi, personaggi strambi e ottimamente caratterizzati, ma anche quello per parlare d’altro, molto altro: la guerra, il comunismo, l’emancipazione delle minoranze, la way of life americana.
Giochi di parole, citazioni nascoste, tanta ironia e stoccate politicamente non corrette al momento giusto. Ritmo sempre molto alto e capacità affabulatorie di Roth a pieni giri fino all’ultimo inning.

http://www.subliminalpop.com/?p=9648
Profile Image for Dave Russell.
73 reviews94 followers
December 27, 2009
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 District" (it's not what you think. It's worse.): I just marveled at these brilliantly funny episodes.
Profile Image for Rod Ruff .
30 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2020
My first Phillip Roth and it won't be my last. I was laughing out loud quite often for this one. Helps fill that gaping void left by a suspended baseball season...
Profile Image for Mariano Hortal.
717 reviews176 followers
August 26, 2015
Publicada en http://lecturaylocura.com/la-gran-nov...

La gran novela americana de Philip Roth. El béisbol como catalizador del mito

Cada cierto tiempo es bueno recordar lo útil que es el texto que hice sobre el mito de la Gran Novela Americana a propósito del Libertad de Franzen y El gran Gatsby de Fitzgerald; allí hablaba, entre otras cosas, del momento (1868) en que dicho término fue acuñado por John William De Forest y el verdadero alcance del mismo, más allá de superficialidades aplicadas hoy en día en cuanto a tamaño o simple calidad:
“But the Great American Novel–the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence–the American “Newcomes” or “Miserables” will, we suppose, be possible earlier. “Is it time?” the benighted people in the earthen jars or commonplace life are asking. And with no intention of being disagreeable, but rather with sympathetic sorrow, we answer, “Wait.” At least we fear that such ought to be our answer. This task of painting the American soul within the framework of a novel has seldom been attempted, and has never been accomplished further than very partially– in the production of a few outlines.”
Para De Forest la clave estaba en que tenía que ser “la imagen de las maneras y emociones ordinarias de la existencia del pueblo americano” (“the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence”), es decir, “pintar el espíritu americano dentro de una novela” (“this task of painting the american soul within the framework of a novel”).
Teniendo en cuenta lo anterior, vamos con Philiph Roth, que en 1973 decidió escribir una novela llamada La gran novela americana, con una intencionalidad clara en cuanto a conocimiento del mito y con una subversión manifiesta en cuanto a la forma de presentar el “espíritu americano” y “las maneras y emociones ordinarias del pueblo americano”; se puede ver claramente en dos textos, en el primero de ellos dándole la importancia que se merece el béisbol, ese desconocido que despierta la pasión de los americanos:
“Además, era imposible comunicar la esencia del juego con palabras, ya fueran escritas o habladas, ni siquiera con palabras tan poéticas e inspiradas como las que solía pronunciar Míster Fairsmith. Como decía el general, la belleza y el sentido del béisbol residían en la inalterable geometría del diamante y en el reto que esta comportaba para la habilidad, la fuerza y el sentido de la oportunidad de los jugadores. El béisbol era un juego que se veía de manera distinta desde cada uno de los asientos del estadio, y por consiguiente jamás podría representarse adecuadamente a menos que alguien fuera capaz de reunir en una única imagen lo que todos y cada uno de los espectadores presentes en el estadio veían a cada momento […]”
Para, a continuación, identificar el béisbol con toda una nación: el nexo que los une a todos. Por lo tanto, en palabras de Roth, el béisbol estaría indefectiblemente unido al sueño americano:
“¿Qué le dice un americano a otro para entablar conversación en el tranvía, en el tren, en el autobús: “¿Di, puedes ver, con la primera luz de la aurora…?”, ¡No! Le dice: “Eh, ¿qué han hecho hoy los Tycoons?”. Le dice: “Eh, ¿Mazda ha marcado jonrón?”. Dime Roland, ¿sabes ya qué es lo que hermana a millones y millones de americanos, lo que convierte a los rivales en aliados, a los extraños en vecinos, a los enemigos en amigos? ¡El béisbol! Y Así es como se proponen destruir América, jovencito, ese es su malvado e ingenioso plan: ¡destruir nuestro deporte nacional!
-Pero… ¿cómo? ¿Cómo pretenden lograr algo así?
-¡Convirtiéndolo en un espectáculo ridículo! ¡Haciendo que la gente se ría de él! ¡Quieren que nos riamos hasta morir!”
El final del sueño americano, o la debacle de dicho sueño sería representar dicho deporte no por sus heroicidades sino más bien desde su faceta más ridícula; eso es lo que hace Roth, ya que toma el equipo más inútil de una de las ligas de béisbol, y lo utiliza para representar las costumbres del pueblo americano mediante una sátira continua y desternillante del deporte y, por extensión, de la sociedad americana.
Para ello escoge como narrador a Word Smith, Smitty, un periodista que será el que relatará las vicisitudes de la liga de béisbol y, en particular de los Mundys, el equipo en cuestión. Adoptará la primera persona de este periodista en el prólogo y en el epílogo, el prólogo le sirve para encuadrar la novela en la tradición, en esa Gran Novela Americana comentada anteriormente:
“Con esta prosa de segunda infancia no me dejarían ni entrar en secundaria, ¿cómo, pues, van a darme el Pulitzer? En fin, ni el monte Rushmore se labró en un día ni la Gran Novela Americana se escribirá sin sufrimiento. Además, empieza a pensar que quizá el dolor le hace bien al estilo: cuando escribir una letra como la z minúscula se convierte en algo tan tedioso y traicionero como un trayecto de montaña donde a cada curva de herradura hay que girar para no despeñarse al abismo, uno tiende a ahorrarse las palabras con z.”
De hecho, no duda, por si no lo teníamos claro, en establecer paralelismos con el Moby Dick de Melville o con el Huckleberry Finn de Twain; un verdadero prodigio que le sirve tanto para asentar la base en cuanto a tradición novelística como para realizar un pequeño resumen de la historia que se va a contar:
“Estudiantes de L. y fanáticos, la historia que me he propuesto contaros –prefigurada en las andanzas de Huckleberry Finn y el negro Jim, así como en las aventuras y el ostracismo de Hester Prynne, la paria de los puritanos- es la de los en tiempos poderosos Mundys, la de cómo fueron expulsados de su estudio local en Port Ruppert, la del humillante año que pasaron en la carretera y la de la vergonzosa catástrofe que acabó con ellos (y conmigo) para siempre. Poco se imaginaban los otros siete equipos de la liga –poco nos lo imaginábamos todos, incluido el menda- que el aparentemente cómico infortunio de los Mundys constituía el preludio de nuestro común olvido. Mas esa, fanáticos, es la tiránica ley de nuestras vidas: hoy, la euforia; mañana, el torbellino.”
Esta forma de contarlo es lo que utilizará en cada comienzo de los siguientes capítulos, a modo de resumen, adoptando un narrador omnisciente y que entronca directamente con la forma de narrar de la época victoriana, llama la atención su intención de hacer una novela moderna, contemporánea, encuadrada en la tradición más antigua, del inicio de lo que podríamos llamar la Gran Novela Americana:
“Donde se narra cuanto es preciso sobre la historia de la Liga Patriota para que el lector se familiarice con su precaria condición a comienzos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Del carácter del general Oakhart, soldado, patriota y presidente de la Liga. De su gran apego a las reglas del juego. De sus ambiciones. A modo de contraste, del carácter del pícher Gil Gamesh, el debutante más sensacional de todos los tiempos. De su actitud hacia la autoridad y la humanidad en general. De la sabiduría y los sufrimientos de Bocazas Masterson, el umpire que se cruzó en su camino. De Cómo Gil Gamesh fue expulsado del béisbol por vulnerar la ley.[…]”
A partir de ahí, cada capítulo es una recopilación de los hechos que les suceden a los Mundys, la liga de béisbol y todo lo que se relaciona con ellos. Los Mundys son un equipo de perdedores, de inadaptados, con miembros amputados, aquellos que no han podido ir a la guerra por sus diversas taras y que van desde Mike Rama que se estrella contra las paredes en cada partido:
“[…] La afición, por supuesto, se sentía profundamente conmovida al ver cómo aquel joven brillante anteponía la victoria a su propia integridad. Cada vez que en el estadio resonaba el pataplum, el corazón se les encogía: ¿se había matado esta vez? Y lo más importante, ¿se le habría caído la pelota? Milagrosamente, la respuesta siempre era negativa. “
Hasta Buddy, el inadaptado de color que se presenta como un gran fichaje y que le sirve para hacer una broma sobre su hombría:
“A causa de la lluvia de flashes que acompañó el contacto de la yema del dedo de Doblona con la carne de Buddy, el efecto de su gesto sobre el antiguo jugador de los Mundys no se hizo perceptible de manera inmediata, pero cuando por fin los presentes recuperaron la vista resultó evidente que en los pantalones nuevos de franela de Buddy asomaba un bulto de considerables proporciones.
-Cáspita –dijeron los reporteros entre risas.
Mazuma, que siempre tenía alguna ocurrencia a punto, dijo:
-Caballeros, si quieren les digo qué es lo que no le falta a mi nuevo jardinero derecho.”
De fondo, la guerra fría, los dobles agentes, los espías, el balanceo entre la posibilidad del comunismo y lo que le puede hacer mal al mundo:
“-En mil novecientos treinta y ocho me mandaron ir a Moscú, el mayor honor que podía concedérsele a un joven agente comunista. Ahí me matriculé en el Centro de la Unión leninista de Espías y Técnicos en Sabotaje, conocido popularmente como el Culetes.
-Gamesh, ¡esperas que me crea que ese es el nombre de una escuela de Moscú? –preguntó el escéptico general.
-General, los comunistas no sienten más que desdén por la decencia y la dignidad humanas. La irreverencia y la blasfemia son su negocio, y saben cómo practicarlo.”
Y el capitalismo como verdadero destructor del sueño americano:
“Oakhart: Sí, es ridículo, pero ¿y si aun así es verdad? ¿Y si acaban destruyendo el béisbol desde dentro?
Smitty: Cuando eso ocurra, querido general, será un día muy triste, pero no será por culpa del comunismo ateo y materialista.
Oakhart: ¿De quién entonces?
Smitty: ¿De quién? ¡Del capitalismo ateo y materialista, he aquí de quién! Pero, claro, eso es solo una opinión personal, general, la de un tipo llamado Smith.”
Pero, al final, para Roth, es el pueblo americano el que sufre, no son los héroes los que representan el sueño americano, sino los que luchan en el día a día:
“¿Qué pasa con el resto de nosotros, campeón? ¿Qué pasa con los desgraciados, por ejemplo? ¿Qué pasa con los débiles y los humildes y los desesperados y los cobardes y los que no tienen, por decir los primeros que me vienen a la cabeza? ¿Qué pasa con los perdedores? ¿Qué pasa con los fracasados? ¿Qué pasa con los parias de la tierra, que, por si no lo sabías, conforman el noventa por ciento de la raza humana? ¿Ellos no tienen sueños, Agni? ¿No tienen esperanzas? ¿Quién os ha dicho a los campeones como tú que el mundo es vuestro? […] Déjame que te diga una cosa, Adonis americano: a los hijoputas rubitos se os ha pasado la hora. Se acabó, Agni. Ya no aceptamos vuestras reglas, ¡ahora jugamos con las nuestras! ¡La Revolución ha empezado! ¡A partir de ahora los Mundys son la raza suprema!”
Ha llegado tarde, pero ha llegado para quedarse, la última novela que nos quedaba del gran Philip Roth.
Los textos provienen de la traducción de David Paradela López de La gran novela americana de Philip Roth para la editorial Contra.
Profile Image for Jim Leckband.
712 reviews1 follower
March 30, 2012
"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 rafting. Moby-Dick - endless cetacean canoodling. The Scarlet Letter - endless pious preaching and custom-house craziness. What is all this diversion and digression leading to? My opinion is that the Great American Novels dig into a certain subject to sidle into their Big Point - which is that America is Batshit Weird. And what else is batshit weird than filling a book with obsessive whaling, slavery and the South in the eyes of a runaway, and Puritan banishment? So why not baseball's history and its players?

Roth uses baseball and many allusions to its history to illustrate the many Batshit Weirdnesses of America. The war between Capitol and Labor, The Depression and our uniquely American reaction to it, Anti-Communism (the Mad King George of Batshit Weird), Racial Hatred, and American Exceptionalism - the belief that America is a Shining City upon a Hill, rather than a crazy quilt cacophony of US vs. THEM. Roth somehow takes on all these Sacred Downer Cows and makes a hilarious novel out of it, all with Baseball.
Profile Image for Mario_Bambea.
681 reviews90 followers
August 4, 2017
Only for those who love the game

Se non conoscete il baseball, i suoi riti, i suoi miti, le sue illogiche procedure, i suoi complessi meccanismi sarà molto difficile che possiate apprezzare fino in fondo la grandezza e la comicità di questo grandissimo romanzo di Roth. Perché il grande autore americano costruisce qualcosa tra il gioco letterario, l'invenzione senza freni, la critica divertentissima dell'anima americana, così come si concretizza in questo gioco semplice (throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball) e complicato (hit-and-run, medie battuta, falli di pedana, inside-fly rule). Word Smith ci parla di un America mitica, forse mai esistita come la Lega Patriota, ma che è innestata dentro le viscere di ogni americano di una certa età - perché il baseball è anche nostalgia di una parte degli USA, non quella dei ghetti dove si gioca a basket, non quella del midwest che vive di football, non quella dei latinos che si dedicano al calcio - quella della middle (e lower) class delle grandi metropoli. Ma il genio infinito e irrefrenabile di Roth emerge anche in invenzioni a cui non daresti venti righe e che lui riesce a sostenere per pagine e pagine lasciandoti ammirato, coinvolto ed incredulo del suo immenso talento di inventore e narratore di storie fantastiche - le prostitute-tate, le tribù africane che si rivoltano per una slide in prima base negata, un lanciatore di nome Gil Gamesh che diventa doppiogiochista in un complotto globale da guerra fredda negli anni '40… Purtroppo la quinta stella non posso darla, per l'incredibile e orribile traduzione, piena zeppa di errori, di approssimazioni e di traslitterazioni imbarazzanti nel riportare i termini del baseball, con la tremenda excusatio non petita: "il baseball è praticamente sconosciuto in Italia, per cui si riporteranno termini calcistici per fare comprendere i concetti al lettore"!!
Profile Image for James Murphy.
982 reviews160 followers
June 1, 2016
This is a reread but it's so far in my Pleistocene past that I don't remember much at all except that my sense today is I under-appreciated it. Time to try again.

I didn't remember any of it except a few character names, and then because they're outlandish. It's not one of Roth's more critically appreciated novels, perhaps. The attraction for me was that I was in the mood for a baseball novel. It satisfied that in all its spherical looniness, all its under-your-chin invective, which is really just for fun. I liked the shiny newness of its originality, and I liked the grit embedded in its hide.

It's truly a funny novel. I laughed out loud in a couple of spots. There's a funny pastiche of Heart of Darkness when the Fairsmith father and son are in Africa. I liked the dwarf set piece, and I liked the brilliantly written game the Mundys played against the patients of the insane asylum.

But after a while it grows a little thin. Someone once wrote that parts of it are out of control, and I agree with that. The constant poking fun at baseball through some of its revered moments, like the handicapped players during the war years, dwarf pinch-hitters, the use of mythic names for players (Gil Gamesh, John Baal), is just that, fun. It's fill-tilt satire but extended to the point where it begins to wear out. By the time I came to the end and the theme of the communist subversion within the Patriot League, stand-in for America, I was eager for the end. That theme of the U. S./Soviet rivalry, the Cold War before there was a Cold War, the red menace in America isn't a universal theme and is subject to the erosion of reader appeal. Timely in 1973, it now seems dated.
Profile Image for Fede La Lettrice.
606 reviews57 followers
April 12, 2022
Chi ha scritto Il Grande Romanzo Americano? E se invece non è ancora stato scritto, chi lo scriverà? Di questo, e di 'Letteraturia', discutono e si infervorano Word Smith, un ex giornalista sportivo ormai anziano e malato (ma chiamiamolo pure Smitty), e il suo amico Hem (che poi è Hemingway), in un prologo sulla scrittura a dir poco straordinario: acuto, irridente e divertito.
Smitty decide di comporre egli stesso il GRA e ha ben chiaro anche l'argomento, il baseball; parte allora un romanzo nel romanzo scritto da Word Smith-Roth, nel quale si susseguono personaggi originali, divertenti e ottimamente inquadrati, scene spassose e picchi di ironia pungente.
Un lungo traslato che vuole disegnare la società americana e i suoi miti, senza sconti sui suoi limiti. Roth lo fa, come sempre, con grande intelligenza e con stile impeccabile.

Il grande romanzo americano
Philip Roth
Traduzione: Vincenzo Mantovani
Editore: Einaudi
Pag: 393
Voto: 3&mezzo/5
25 reviews7 followers
June 17, 2007
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, NY, you should stop by her house. She'll probably give you a Snapple or some Diet Coke or something, if you ask for it nicely.
Profile Image for Ryan.
505 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2011
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 called the Patriot League. It was the third major league up until World War II, and the narrator was a prominent journalist for it. Or so he claims. At the center of this story are the Ruppert Mundys, a team whose owners leased out their stadium for the 1943 season to the war effort and now must play all 154 games as the road team. Besides selling out their team, the owners also cut back on salaries now that all of their former players are serving in the war. They sign a one-armed man, a peg-legged catcher, several players into their 50's, a Mexican reliever whose shoulder is so injured he wimpers with every pitch, and trade for a midget mid-season. As you can see, dark humor abounds here.

I was not wrapped up in the conspiracy angle that the narrator tries to push onto the reader. I don't want to go into any further than that, but just found myself not caring about it. I know that it was necessary because of the way it factors into the conclusion that shows just how the Patriot League was supposedly forgotten, but it was never of much consequence to me, and thus the book felt like it was too long.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,846 reviews70 followers
May 17, 2019
It's been years since I read this, but I recall loving every bit of it. I'm not even a huge baseball fan. (I actually deplore sports.) It's more than a baseball novel, though. It's a scathingly funny satire of the American psyche as told through the sport.
Profile Image for cheeseblab.
207 reviews6 followers
April 29, 2012
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 to walk upstairs), a course titled Baseball in Literature.

Now Engl 106, which was meant as forum in which grad students could develop and exercise pedagogical creativity, had several strict requirements, two of which were that the course reading list had to include (1) literature from across the entire era of canonical writing in English and (2) literature from both sides of the Pond separating the two major-league canonical-writing-in-English countries.

This presented a bit of a challenge for my course, in that Beowulf is tough to present in terms of Grendel's mother coming in from the bullpen to face the lefty-swinging epic hero, and in fact, even later generations of English literati showed a marked indifference to the great American game. But I managed a sufficiently persuasive argument to win an exemption of those requirements and was able to teach my course for two semesters. Third time around--which was the maximum you could teach a single course anyway--the committee refused to be swayed, but that was OK; it was a much better course in theory than it ever was in practice, my classrooms mostly populated by jocks and jock manqués who assumed that any course titled Baseball in Literature would make few actual intellecutual demands.

But why all this matters is that while ordering books for the course, I discovered that this book was out of print, both in cloth and paper. I scrounged up as many used copies as I could find in this pre-Amazon Marketplace world, but that was only 4 or 5 toward a projected need of 30, so, being young and idealistic and bereft of appropriate borders, I thought, "Why not write the author?" He probably had a box or two of books in his basement, and if I wrote a charming enough letter offering to buy them, he'd probably just ship to me gratis, flattered to be invited into my classroom.

I guess I must have written via his publisher; I certainly had no idea that he lived in faraway Cornwall, Connecticut, but that's where the gracious typed postcard was postmarked. Unfortunately, he couldn't help me, not, in fact, having any extra copies lying around; he had not, in fact, realized that the book was o.o.p., and while he did not exactly express gratitude for that information, I got the distinct impression that as soon as he dropped my card in the mail, he intended to phone his agent and/or editor.

So anyway, that's one of my youthful academician's brushes with greatness, along with the rejection letter from PMLA that included the reader's report by litcrit deity Wayne C. Booth, who remarked that while my essay was completely wrongheaded (that part was between the lines, but the next was explicit), he respected the author. I joked that I was going to have a T-shirt made with the legend RESPECTED BY WAYNE C. BOOTH.

But about the novel. Well, I'm inordinately fond of it, in part because it's sort of about baseball, in part for the extraliterary reasons outlined above, but my recollection of it was that it wasn't really very good, and nothing in this reading changed that assessment. I had, in fact, forgotten how drearily draggy the final third or so of the book is, Roth seeming to have run out of any notion what direction might make sense to take it--sort of like the final innings of a game when your team is down 11-2 and is just trying to get to 27 outs without anyone getting hurt. Still, baseball and literature fans have to be eternal optimists, else what's the point? So read it, really--what could it hurt?

Oh, by the way, a coda to the funny story: though I did acquire maybe 5 copies of the book, having my students circulate the copies & read and report on selected chapters, when I began my Roth project, I found that rather than having deaccessioned all but one copy, I had none at all. Which was part of my inspiration to get a New Haven Free Library card, whose copy of the 3rd volume of the Library of America's collection of Roth I actually read this from.
Profile Image for K.
19 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2012
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. LF Mike Rama- "The Ghost," was a speedy left-fielder who could never remember that there is a wall in the outfield.
6. 3B Wayne Heket- At age 52, "The Kid" Heket was the oldest player in the big leagues. He slept standing up between pitches.
7. RF Bud Parusha- He came from a whole family of Major Leaguers and was a superior athlete.....with only one arm.
8. CF Roland Agni- A 19 year old rookie phenom who led the P-League in batting, but was so arrogant that his Father paid the Mundys to bat him last in the line-up just to "teach him a lesson."
The pitching staff consisted entirely of "bald, fat, old" guys, a Mexican named Chico Mecoatl with the "sorest arm in baseball," oh yeah...and a dwarf.

This is their story. The story of how they lost their home and became the first Major League team to play all their games on the road. The story of how they set unspeakable records in futility. The story of how they became embroiled in a communist conspiracy that eventually led to their demise. The story of how they became a national embarrassment that caused a complete historical whitewashing of an entire major league of baseball. Or is it just the delusional rantings of a crusty old sportswriter named "Word" Smith? You'll have to decide.

Along the way you'll get to meet the cast of characters that populated the Patriot League and it's rather short but illustrious history. You'll almost surely be offended at some point, especially if you are a woman, Jewish, black, from a foreign country, communist, capitalist, young, old, slow, handicapped, smart, or human. You'll laugh often, and you'll stop to contemplate things you've never considered before. You'll also be thoroughly entertained.

Many will say that it falls a bit short in it's grand ambition to be The Great American Novel, as its name suggests. That may be true, but I think anyone who reads the amazing and hilarious prologue will understand that great American author Philip Roth's belief in the viability of ANY work attaining that title is impractical at best. Maybe A Great American Novel would be a more perfect title, but if their is one thing this novel is not about, it's perfection.

If you are a baseball fan, you'll like this book. It both skewers and pays tribute to the national pastime. If you are a fan of literature, you'll like this book. It's a classic example of post-modern metafiction. If you are a fan of comedy, you'll like this book. It is a witty social satire. If you are a fan of baseball, literature, and comedy, you'll absolutely love this book! It is a celebration of baseball expertly put into words by one of America's most talented writers.
Profile Image for Fabio.
431 reviews50 followers
November 16, 2017
Nostro Signore odia il baseball. O questo, o non esiste [ semicit. ]

Ho un debole per Roth, al pari di una nutritissima schiera di lettori. Lo ammetto, il primo incontro è stato fatale, complice quel capolavoro che è Pastorale americana. Raramente ho letto sue opere che abbiano tradito le mie aspettative: non sempre capolavori, ma una qualità media elevatissima.

Tra le cose che apprezzo maggiormente, in Roth come in ogni altro autore, è la capacità di sorprendere, spiazzare, pur rimanendo perfettamente riconoscibile. Ciò accade anche con Il grande romanzo americano: parte romanzo satirico sull'ossessione sportiva tutta americana nei confronti del baseball, parte romanzo satirico sull'ossessione politica nei confronti del comunismo, parte tourbillon di giocoleria lessicale ( già notevole nell'edizione italiana, non oso pensare all'originale ), invenzione letteraria ( personaggi e situazioni memorabili, dall'asso babilonese Gil Gamesh alle strepitose avventure di un missionario intenzionato a diffondere la buona novella del baseball tra i cannibali africani ), rimandi colti ( Dostoevskij in primis, soprattutto quando si entra nel vivo del complotto comunista per distruggere la fittizia Patriot League ). Un romanzo che vale una lettura anche per chi, come me, è assolutamente refrattario al baseball, e conosce questo sport solo tramite il grande schermo.

A onor del vero, Il grande romanzo americano si inserisce perfettamente nella scia della precedente opera di Roth, La nostra gang ( o Cosa Bianca nostra, a seconda dell'edizione ), in cui l'autore prendeva satiricamente di mira l'amministrazione Nixon, con un risultato stavolta superiore, a mio avviso. Alcune delle tematiche affrontate, poi, torneranno nella produzione successiva dell'Autore: la grande paura del comunismo ( stavolta in pieno maccartismo ) in Ho sposato un comunista, o la storia alternativa in Il complotto contro l'America.

Naturalmente non manca - come potrebbe, trattandosi di Roth? - la presenza sia della letteratura come argomento della narrativa ( il narratore è un giornalista sportivo intenzionato non solo a raccontare una verità sotterrata dalla storia ufficiale, ma anche a scrivere "il grande romanzo americano" - il prologo del libro è da questo punto di vista fenomenale, al pari della conclusione ), sia del desiderio di integrazione - e possibilmente di primeggiare - dei personaggi di origine ebraica, in questa occasione resi attraverso caricature talmente grottesche da risultare eccessive.

Riguardo alla semicitazione iniziale: forse è questo che Roth cerca di comunicarci, in questo libro. Solo, sostituite "l'umanità" a "il baseball". O forse tutto è ciò che appare in superficie, e il libro parla solamente di baseball, complotti comunisti, spirito americano e grandi romanzi.
Profile Image for V.M..
111 reviews9 followers
Read
February 16, 2016
Afraid I'm going to have to throw in the towel on this one. I love the premise--a third baseball league wiped from history via conspiracy which remains in the memory of only one crotchety and wholly unreliable ex-sports writer. Parts of it are great--funny, sometimes straight up slapstick. And that prologue is a thing of genius, culminating in Smitty measuring up his epic against other GANs, which, combined with the endless references/allusions to Moby-Dick (so much as saying that a collection of every single piece of writing, analysis, and bit of minutiae on baseball (i.e. this book!) it still wouldn't match the thoroughness of Moby-Dick's recording of the whaling industry) made for such a promising set up.

As I said, there's a lot of humor in this book. A more forgiving person might call some of it "dated." On one hand, some of the seemingly boundless sexism, especially in the prologue, seems so over the top that it becomes parody, especially in light of the boys' club that is baseball, sports, and, frequently, vying candidates for the Great American Novel. As the novel progresses, this kind of humor continues and intensifies--I called it quits around the introduction of the Patriot Negro Leagues, in which every team was owned by Aunt Jemima. ...Yeahhhh.

I'm sure some people would cry foul of this, saying it's satire or a different time, but the point is no matter what you call it, it's not enjoyable. I remember trudging through the "comic relief" of Goodbye, Columbus (the Gauguin-obsessed African-American kid in the library) via this shoestring justification, but here I have to say, "To Hell with it!" Considering the following chapter "[contains] as much as has ever been written anywhere on the subject of [little people] in baseball," I don't really see it picking up anymore.

Anyways. From this book, I take away a lesson on reminding yourself that you don't have to finish every book you start. Also, that prologue. If Roth and baseball are in your interests, maybe read the prologue and the first couple of proper chapters. And maybe it gets better/less cringe-worthy in the last couple, too. My understanding, though, is that this book is very much so a minor Roth novel (I can say with confidence it is worlds away from Columbus and American Pastoral, which I'm working on now), so maybe this isn't even for you if you liked his other stuff. Who knows! Not me! I'm done here!
Profile Image for Giusy Pappalardo.
172 reviews18 followers
August 20, 2017
Il grande romanzo a mericano di Philip Roth è un libro, come del resto tutti i libri di Roth, che parla di letteratura e lo fa nel modo in cui Roth sa farlo, attraverso l'invenzione letteraria e lo scardinamento della realtà.
Chi scriverà il grande romanzo americano? E cos'è il grande romanzo americano? "Chiamatemi Smitty." inizia con questa frase il libro. E tutta la prima parte è un alzare la palla alla scrittura e un battere dello stile. Geniali le pagine in cui il quasi novantenne ex cronista sportivo Smith Word (ma chiamiamolo Smitty, come lo chiamavano tutti - questa è di Roth non di Siti-) dialoga con un incazzatissimo Hem (Hemingway) che distrugge i suoi precursori: Hawthorne, Twain, Melville, non hanno certamente scritto loro il grande romanzo americano e hanno usato il suo stile! Lo scriverà Hem il grande romanzo americano? Può darsi, intanto però lo scrive Smitty, raccontando attraverso una storia del baseball che vede la congiura maccartista per la sparizione della Patriot League. Sport per me ostico e noioso, ho fatto fatica a seguire le vicende, spesso assurde ma simboliche che vedono protagonisti giocatori che rappresentano le debolezze umane e sociali. Siamo negli anni della guerra, il baseball fa dimenticare quanti giovani stiano combattendo per la pace in Europa. E così tra giocatori nani, giocatori senza un braccio, giocatori bellissimi e sfrontati, Roth avanza in un mondo in cui i buoni sono cattivi e viceversa. Nonostante abbia trovato noiose molte pagine per incapacità di cogliere le sfumature e i rimandi al gioco , lo stile e i continui riferimenti letterari rendono questo libro un interessante esperimento che vale la pena leggere.
Insomma non il mio Roth preferito, ma pur sempre in gran spolvero.
Chissà se un giorno capirò le regole del baseball. Per ora mi accontento delle regole della fiction e dello stile ineguagliabile del mio scrittore preferito.
Profile Image for Frabe.
1,036 reviews39 followers
November 25, 2019
Il vecchio giornalista sportivo Word Smith - “Fabbro di Parole -, già amico di Hemingway, ha scritto - lui, sì, proprio lui, mica Hem - “Il grande romanzo americano”, che parte dal baseball, la “religione nazionale”, per raccontare un pezzo di Storia U.S.A., quello degli egli anni della seconda guerra mondiale. Il capitolo più scottante del libro parla dell’infiltrazione comunista nel mondo del baseball, tesa a distruggere lo sport tanto amato e quindi l’intera nazione. La denuncia sarebbe forte, pur se espressa con toni umoristici e grotteschi, ma c’è un problema: Word Smith non trova un editore. “Attualmente - fa sapere - sono virtualmente incarcerato in un ospizio per vecchi - il “Valhalla” -, nel circondario di New York, dove colleghi e medici mi trattano come uno squilibrato. Perché? Perché ho scritto un romanzo storico che non concorda con la storia ufficiale dell’America che viene propinata nelle scuole. Io dico “storico” ma loro direbbero “isterico”. Non v’è un solo editore statunitense che osi presentare al pubblico americano la vera storia da me narrata, non v’è alcuno, qui al Valhalla, che pigli sul serio me o il mio libro.” Povero Word Smith! Incompreso, boicottato. O squilibrato, come dicono? Non gli rimane che un’ultima chance: la richiesta a Mao Tse-tung di pubblicare il libro in Cina...
“Il grande romanzo americano” l'ha scritto Roth, in realtà, un Roth pirotecnico, fabbro di parole incandescenti, mirabolanti.
Profile Image for Daniel.
2,386 reviews36 followers
January 20, 2010
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 some of the strategy, but I still find it a slow and mostly dull game. So...to have a book, full of dry humor around the sport of baseball, probably is not a good choice for me.

In large part, though, I had trouble visualizing anyone from this book. The characters were never real for, and without them being real, or characters that I could picture, I didn't really care anything for them. And for that I blame the author.

This is my second Philip Roth novel, and so far, I'm not particularly impressed.
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