Monday, February 20, 2017

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Warning: I guess you could say this review contains spoilers, but the novel itself starts with a whole chapter of what you could call "spoilers."
Before the review of this book really starts, I want to say that I felt a bit of sympathy for Philip Roth and his obvious itching temptation to italicize at least one word in every sentence he writes. Dear Philip, I also suffer from that malady. I, however, read Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery when I was in Junior High. It's a book about a girl that wants to be a writer and shares her amateur pieces with her rural school teacher, a very passionate and smart but unforgiving man, who mocks the juvenile naïveté of the obsessive italicizer. That is why, from that day on, I have felt a little bit embarrassed every time I give in to the pleasure of italics. Perhaps poor Mr. Roth would've already won the Nobel if he, too, had read Emily Climbs in Junior High.

Now, on to the review. 

I generally feel guilty rating a book that's a renown masterpiece badly due to the fact that it provoked *yawns.* I mean, nobody expects the Odyssey to be lots of fun, and yet we can recognize it has a lot of literary merit, right? However, I tend to be more forgiving of boring books written, you know, two thousand and five hundred years ago*, than of books written only two decades ago which make their pages feel like groveling through steamy and endless shit.

For one, this book could've done without the endless repetition of the same, exact, thing, over, and, over, and, over, again. I do understand it can be a literary device. I've read my Beckett. But 400 pages of the same, same, same thing? Ain't nobody got time for that. I, at least, sadly a very slow reader and a college student and a person with, you know, a life don't.

And, I'm not from the USA, and have no connection to it, so my reaction to the book's theme/teaching/morale is: Another book on the failure of the American dream? How many of them are there? I read my Gatsby already, I GET IT.

Also, as a Jew, I was frankly disappointed at the lack of true Jewishness (no yiddishemames to be seen) and annoyed by yet another Woody Allen-type character (Swede's dad), created to annoy the fuck out of all mankind. (I swear, 99% of Jews aren't like Woody Allen. At least not the ones I know.) And, as a socialist, I feel that Merry and her kind were unfairly one-dimensional. (This I say because I was once, and still sort of am, an adolescent fighting with her conservative parents over politics and economics. However, I really do hope that I'm just not as short-sighted as poor demented Merry.) Anyhow, one-dimensional characters, dear Philip Roth, is another literary device that according to moi, you got wrong, in spite of the inkling of complexity we have of the Swede in the last quarter of the book. That was yum. Needed more of that.

Finally: WHY DOES HE NEVER TELL US HOW THE EFF MERRY DIED. Why!!!!! You could've given us some entertainment, you damn fool! I'd rather just think he forgot.

So, in sum: This book, meh, had it's good parts, mostly bad, can't understand what the genius of Roth is. I am not giving this book less stars because it's my father's favourite book and, as a good Jew, I respect my fifth commandment. Over and out.

*As you see, my sympathy for Philip Roth's italics really do stem from my shared affliction.

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