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Cannonball Read III: American Pastoral by Philip Roth

By caragwapa | Books | April 13, 2011 |

By caragwapa | Books | April 13, 2011 |

This is my first Roth book, so I don’t really know Nathan Zuckerman. Apparently, he’s a recurring character in his books and is considered a stand-in for the author in his books. In this book, the story starts with Zuckerman and his hero worship of All American Golden Boy Swede Levov. Zuckerman was friends with the Swede’s younger brother when they were kids and the Swede was the guy everyone looked up to, because of his athletic prowess and his all around nice guy-ness.

Zuckerman meets Jerry (the younger brother) at their high school reunion and learns that beneath the seemingly perfect and ordinary life that the Swede led, was an event that destroyed his “perfectness.” His daughter, after a pampered childhood, grew up to become a home-grown terrorist, planting a bomb that killed the local doctor. Zuckerman then creates, based on these very basic facts that he knows, the story of Swede Levov, of his perfect normalcy and his eventual downfall.

It is not so much about the crazy-ass daughter and her actions. It’s more of how such action affected her parents and their lives. And the hanging question of how the fuck could such a thing happen to such ordinary, upstanding people? How could a Jewish businessman and athlete and a former Miss New Jersey have given birth to and raised such a weird, violent and unthinking girl?

I don’t know, the book was very American. American dream, American hang-ups. While the prose was engaging and thought provoking to read, I just thought is was so ragey! And it was so repetitive with the descriptions and exaltations of how awesome the Swede was.

I think that like The Corrections, I was able to enjoy reading the book and think I got it. I just didn’t GET it. It didn’t resonate with me. I was let a bit let down considering this book is so often called one of the best American books ever.

For more of caragwapa’s reviews, check out her blog, Cannonballer.

This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.

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