The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Fiction

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American Pastoral
By: 
Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin

 

From the beginning of his long and celebrated career, 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 Newark glove factory--comes of age in thriving triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to to run amok in the turbulent 1960s. Not even the most private, well-intentioned citizen, it seems, gets to sidestep the sweep of history. American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American's rise and fall--of a strong confident master of social equilibrium overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder.

For the Swede is not allowed to stay forever blissful inside the beloved hundred-and-seventy-year-old stone farmhouse, in rural Old Rimrock, where he lives with his pretty wife--the college sweetheart who was Miss New Jersey of 1949--and the lively, precocious daughter who is the apple of his eye. The apple of his eye, that is, until she 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.

American Pastoral presents a vivid portrait of how the innocence of Swede Levov is swept away by the times--of how everything industriously created by his family in America over three generations is left in a shambles by the explosion of a bomb in his own bucolic backyard.

(From the book jacket)