Friday, 6 April 2012
AMERICAN PASTORAL by Philip Roth
I was fascinated and horrified in about equal measure by Philip Roth's PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT which is, oddly, a bit like my current relationship with KOURTNEY AND KIM TAKE NEW YORK. I thus had high hopes for AMERICAN PASTORAL.
Where Roth's early works, including PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, were largely comic novels about Jewish American life, AMERICAN PASTORAL is clearly a work by a mature, much celebrated writer, who knows he is a mature much celebrated writer, and feels a need to write a novel as such.
So it starts off with a man named Nathan, clearly a proxy for the author (this is already what I as an experienced reader know to be a DANGER SIGN), who is attending his high school reunion. There is lots of agonising over the passage of time, which I could have gotten into, but then there is also lots of philosophizing about his generation, wich I found almost unbearably irritating. He writes about it as if the experience of Americans are the experiences of everyone. As if he can define an era. It's sort of revoltingly insular. The pages just dripped with self-importance. I couldn't handle it.
Then we go into how the one guy at their high school, nicknamed the Swede, went on to have this perfect life, till his daughter blew up a post office in protest at the Vietnam war. So then it becomes sort of state of the nation novel. Then I gave up on it. Sorry Mr Roth.