American Pastoral by Philip Roth

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The 150-word Review: Swede Levov, the protagonist from Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” is a microcosm of the American century. As a young man, he was athletic, able, charismatic, designed for success, a paragon of American potential and assimilation. He was a manifestation of everything that was “good” with America.

Swede lives the American dream with his perfect family in an idyllic American town, but when his daughter commits a capricious act of political terror, Swede’s veneer of American bliss slowly crumbles and he becomes the embodiment of the turmoil and uncertainty that is also the American century.

Philip Roth’s ability to project sweeping themes upon his characters, while also focusing on their intimate failures and emotional idiosyncrasies with microscopic clarity, is unrivaled by any other contemporary author. Roth’s dissection of Swede Levov’s psyche transforms the bronze-like myth of “The Swede” into one of the most affecting tragic figures in all of American literature.

Having this book on your shelf will impress: Harold Bloom, the Weather Underground, Nathan Zuckerman, anyone who sincerely wants to better understand the American experience, the Pulitzer Prize committee, New Jersey suburbanites, and glove makers.

This book will go great with: an American Sweetheart.

Set the mood with: Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen.

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, American Pastoral is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s literary alter ego.


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