Read Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth Free Online
Book Title: Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short Stories|
The size of the: 921 KB
Edition: Houghton Mifflin (T)
Date of issue: June 1st 1959
The author of the book: Philip Roth
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: 9780395081389
Read full description of the books Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short Stories:"Curiously, the darkness seemed to have something to do with Harriet, Ron's intended, and I thought for a time that it was simply the reality of Harriet's arrival that had dramatized the passing of time: we had been talking about it and now suddenly it was here — just as Brenda's departure would be here before we knew it." -Goodbye, Columbus
How often do I think of the passing of time in this way, as Roth describes it in this poignant, wistful and utterly beautiful book. "Goodbye, Columbus" already shows a master's hand in his debut. It's not about a love affair or class and social differences so much as it is about the passing of time. The love affair, which is supposed to be so ecstatic, is tinged constantly with the sad realization of its ending. The whole story is pervaded by a sense of inevitability and loss. That the outcome can be nothing but loss. It's as if the loss has already happened.
The sense of place, of the arid stasis of dependency, the outsider, the fish out of water...all captured so perfectly.
Some will likely fixate, wrongheadedly IMO, on the dated elements (eg., the "colored boy", the diaphragm, the parental shock over premarital sex)... So be it.
The part that really brought tears to my eyes was when Brenda's brother, Ron, the clueless athlete being seemingly ushered into a marriage to please all parties, listens to a record album of his glory days as a basketball star. Again, the sense of something bygone, the glory days behind one already at such a young age. Now hustled into the banal mandates of social expectation. Ron laying on the bed, drinking in the last of his youth for the last time. This moved me so much. I could hear the record album; Roth describes it so perfectly. Like everything else in the novella, it flies off the page for me.
But I initially delved into this svelte volume of early works by first reading one of the five additional short stories, "Defender of the Faith," on recommendation of a young reading pal. As I read it I wondered if this piece was where all the charges of Roth being a "self-hating Jew" had begun, and as I read on Wikipedia, it apparently was.
So, Roth dares to look at things with more complexity than black and white and eschews neat and childish political boundaries and simplistic feel-good categories. All the more reason to show the man some respect.
The story was superb.
The man writes like an angel, as a friend once put it.
The short stories:
Each is splendid in its way. All dealing with Jewish assimilation in post-war (WWII) USA.
"Defender of the Faith" and "Eli, the Fanatic" are the two longest ones, about 40-50pp. each. The latter is an interesting tale with some tinge of magical realism about assimilation vs. tradition; Jews in postwar America not wanting to upset the apple cart in the land that has treated them best of all the places on earth in their long struggle for peace; feeling shame about their orthodox past being out in the open in small-town America. Eli is a lawyer sent by his own assimilated colleagues to send the old-school Jews packing; but he tries to affect a compromise, sensing the injustice and feeling guilty about his own role in the process. The impending birth of his son elicits issues of continuity, tradition and self-identity as a Jew. The idea of a suit, not just as an outer piece of cloth than can be exchanged or replaced, but as an external manifestation of one's inner identity, etc.... Good stuff.
"Epstein," another of the longer stories, tells of the mid-life crisis of a hardworking Jewish breadwinner; seemingly disrespected at home and tortured by a sense of life passing him by all around him. The inevitable lure of an affair,...
"You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings." This one, honestly didn't do much for me, but it was fun.
"Conversion of the Jews." A cute story about magical revelations stemming from a boy's act of questioning and rebellion. Violence should not be a part of imparting faith on children, etc.
In all of the stories, Roth's characters are not heroic, they are human and contradictory. Some people have trouble wrapping their heads around this.
All the stories in this book should be read, not just "Goodbye, Columbus."
Read information about the authorPhilip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and include American Pastoral (1997) (winner of the Pulitzer Prize). In May 2011, he won the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction.
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