Tuesday 6 June 2017

What's life about and why does shit happen?

American Pastoral (The American Trilogy, #1)

This is the first Philip Roth book I've read and I'm quite ambivalent about it. There were lots of things I didn't like, including the way the narrative jumped around, the unwieldy length of the sentences, and many of the characters.

For a while I was also quite annoyed at the way the book was constructed as a story within a story. The character Zuckerman imagines the life of his high school hero, Swede Levov based on a few facts he learns at a school reunion. He cannot know the truth of Swede's life, and for a while, I found myself constantly aware that "this is a made-up story". Of course all fiction is "made-up", but I was initially frustrated by this knowledge.

Half way through, I had become intrigued. The book is in three sections, the titles of which - Paradise Remembered, The Fall, Paradise Lost - gave me the impression I was going to read something along the lines of Proust or Milton. There are certainly long, reminiscent passages, and although the book is not about the fall of Adam and Eve, it can certainly be likened to the biblical story of Job.

So by the time I'd reached the end of the book, I realised that much as I'd disliked some of it, I wanted to know how Swede would cope with his demolished dreams, and it had made me think and reflect. What is life all about, and why, if we are good and do the best we can, does shit happen?

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