Philip Roth's fiction has often explored the human need to demolish, to challenge, to oppose, to pull apart. Now, writing with deep understanding, with enormous power and scope and great storytelling energy, he focuses on the counterforce: the longing for an ordinary life. Seymour 'Swede' Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family ...
Philip Roth's fiction has often explored the human need to demolish, to challenge, to oppose, to pull apart. Now, writing with deep understanding, with enormous power and scope and great storytelling energy, he focuses on the counterforce: the longing for an ordinary life. Seymour 'Swede' Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's glove factory - comes of age in thriving, triumphant, postwar America. He has a beautiful wife - Miss New Jersey 1949 - and a lively, precocious daughter, Merry. She is the apple of his eye until America begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s and Merry grows up to be a revolutionary terrorist bent on destroying her father's paradise. With vigorous realism, one of America's most esteemed writers takes us back to the conflicts and violent transitions of the 1960s. This is a book about loving - and hating - America. It's a book about wanting to belong- and refusing to belong - to America. It sets the desire for an American pastoral - a respectable life of space, calm, order, optimism, and achievement - against the indigenous American berserk.
A Spectacular journey through the last half of the twentieth century, through the eyes of one man. He seemed to have everything....but you've got to read it to truly understand the experience. I finished it in record time, just spellbound.
I'm now a Philip Roth devotee.
Feb 18, 2010
DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK
To me it encompasses the ennui and moral bankruptcy of 21st century American life as did the film "American Beauty" starring Kevin Spacey. It is sad and funny and true.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-02-10 The protagonist of Roth's new novel, a magnificent meditation on a pivotal decade in our nation's history, is in every way different from the profane and sclerotic antihero of Sabbath's Theater (for which Roth won the National Book Award in 1995). It's as though, having vented his spleen and his libido in Mickey Sabbath, Roth was then free to contemplate the life of a man who is Sabbath's complete opposite. He relates the story of Seymour "Swede" Levov with few sex scenes and no scatological sideshows; the deviant behavior demonstrated here was common to a generation, and the shocks Roth delivers are part of our national trauma. This is Roth's most mature novel, powerful and universally resonant. Swede Levov's life has been charmed from the time he was an all-star athlete at Newark's Weequahic high school. As handsome, modest, generous and kind as he is gifted, Swede takes pains to acknowledge the blessings for which he is perceived as the most fortunate of men. He is patriotic and civically responsible, maritally faithful, morally upstanding, a mensch. He successfully runs his father's glove factory, refusing to be cowed by the race riots that rock Newark, marries a shiksa beauty-pageant queen, who is smart and ambitious, buys a 100-acre farm in a classy suburbŠthe epitome of serene, innocent, pastoral existenceŠand dotes on his daughter, Merry. But when Merry becomes radicalized during the Vietnam War, plants a bomb that kills an innocent man and goes underground for five years, Swede endures a torment that becomes increasingly unbearable as he learns more about Merry's monstrous life. In depicting Merry, Roth expresses palpable fury at the privileged, well-educated, self-centered children of the 1960s, who in their militant idealism demonstrated ferocious hatred for a country that had offered their families opportunity and freedom. After three generations of upward striving and success, Swede and his family are flung "out of the longed-for American pastoral and into everything that is its antithesis and its enemyŠinto the fury, the violence and the desperation of the counterpastoralŠinto the American berserk." Roth's pace is measured. The first two sections of the book are richly textured with background detail. The last third, however, is full of shocking surprises and a message of existential chaos. "The Swede found out that we are all in the power of something demented,'' Roth writes. And again: "He had learned the worst lesson that life could teachŠthat it makes no sense." In the end, his dream and his life destroyed by his daughter and the decade, Swede finally understands that he is living through the moral breakdown of American society. The picture is chilling. 100,000 first printing; BOMC selection. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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