The Great American Novel

( 7 )

Overview

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, "The Babe Ruth of the Big House," who never hit a home run sober. If you've never heard of them?or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history?it's because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

In this ribald, richly imagined, and wickedly satiric novel, Roth...

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Overview

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, "The Babe Ruth of the Big House," who never hit a home run sober. If you've never heard of them—or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history—it's because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

In this ribald, richly imagined, and wickedly satiric novel, Roth turns baseball's status as national pastime and myth into an occasion for unfettered picaresque farce, replete with heroism and perfidy, ebullient wordplay and a cast of characters that includes the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Now that whaling is banned and the Mississippi is a tourist attraction, the subject for anything resembling The Great American Novel could only be baseball. And the author could only be Philip Roth, who in this ribald, wickedly satiric book tells the story of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless baseball team in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Shameless comic extravagance.... Roth gleefully exploits our readiness to let baseball stand for America itself." —The New York Times

"Roth invents baseball anew, as pure slapstick.... An awesome performance." —The New Republic

"Roth is better than he's ever been before.... The prose is electric." —The Atlantic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679749066
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/16/1995
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 286,503
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Roth
In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for AMERICAN PASTORAL. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA received the Society of American Historians’ prize for “the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004.” Recently Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Biography

Philip Roth's long and celebrated career has been something of a thorn in the side of the writer. As it is for so many, fame has been the proverbial double-edged sword, bringing his trenchant tragic-comedies to a wide audience, but also making him a prisoner of expectations and perceptions. Still, since 1959, Roth has forged along, crafting gorgeous variations of the Great American Novel and producing, in addition, an autobiography (The Facts) and a non-fictional account of his father's death (Patrimony: A True Story).

Roth's novels have been oft characterized as "Jewish literature," a stifling distinction that irks Roth to no end. Having grown up in a Jewish household in a lower-middle-class sub-section of Newark, New Jersey, he is incessantly being asked where his seemingly autobiographical characters end and the author begins, another irritant for Roth. He approaches interviewers with an unsettling combination of stoicism, defensiveness, and black wit, qualities that are reflected in his work. For such a high-profile writer, Roth remains enigmatic, seeming to have laid his life out plainly in his writing, but refusing to specify who the real Philip Roth is.

Roth's debut Goodbye, Columbus instantly established him as a significant writer. This National Book Award winner was a curious compendium of a novella that explored class conflict and romantic relationships and five short stories. Here, fully formed in Roth's first outing, was his signature wit, his unflinching insightfulness, and his uncanny ability to satirize his character's situations while also presenting them with humanity. The only missing element of his early work was the outrageousness he would not begin to cultivate until his third full-length novel Portnoy's Complaint -- an unquestionably daring and funny post-sexual revolution comedy that tipped Roth over the line from critically acclaimed writer to literary celebrity.

Even as Roth's personal relationships and his relationship to writing were severely shaken following the success of Portnoy's Complaint, he continued publishing outrageous novels in the vein of his commercial breakthrough. There was Our Gang, a parodic attack on the Nixon administration, and The Breast, a truly bizarre take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, and My Life as a Man, the pivotal novel that introduced Roth's literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman.

Zuckerman would soon be the subject of his very own series, which followed the writer's journey from aspiring young artist with lofty goals to a bestselling author, constantly bombarded by idiotic questions, to a man whose most important relationships have all but crumbled in the wake of his success. The Zuckerman Trilogy (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Counterlife) directly paralls Roth's career and unfolds with aching poignancy and unforgiving humor.

Zuckerman would later reemerge in another trilogy, although this time he would largely be relegated to the role of narrator. Roth's American Trilogy (I Married a Communist, the PEN/Faulkner Award winning The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America), shifts the focus to key moments in the history of late-20th –century American history.

In Everyman (2006) , Roth reaches further back into history. Taking its name from a line of 15th-century English allegorical plays, Everyman is classic Roth -- funny, tragic, and above all else, human. It is also yet another in a seemingly unbreakable line of critical favorites, praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal.

In 2007's highly anticipated Exit Ghost, Roth returned Nathan Zuckerman to his native Manhattan for one final adventure, thus bringing to a rueful, satisfying conclusion one of the most acclaimed literary series of our day. While this may (or may not) be Zuckerman's swan song, it seems unlikely that we have seen the last Philip Roth. Long may he roar.

Good To Know

Before publishing his first novel, Roth wrote an episode of the suspenseful TV classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

A film adaptation of American Pastoral is currently in the works. Australian director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence; Patriot Games) is on board to direct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Philip Milton Roth
    2. Hometown:
      Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 19, 1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    All time favorite

    Theres nothing like hitting a triple

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Great baseball book

    This is probably the single most entertaining baseball novel I have read. Indeed, it may be the funniest novel I have read. It is obvious Mr. Roth loves baseball and even more obvious he wrapped himself in the halls of Cooperstown in order to bring all of this together. I have read it twice since 1975 and am about to start it again.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good baseball satire

    In The Great American Novel, Philip Roth utilizes an alliteratively nutty narrator named "Word" Smith, a.k.a. Smitty, to tell us shamefully satirical stories about a forgotten baseball league, appropriately named the Patriot League, in order to confront the American cultural notion that baseball represents the pastoral ideal. One such story is the perpetually wandering homeless Rupert Mundys, the leagues last-placed team of marginalized misfits, highlighted by a lineup that includes a freak named "Frenchy," a nickname-less teenager, a power-hitting convict, a legless catcher, a "Kid" third baseman, an armless right fielder, and a midget. The homeless group of marginalized misfits is similar to the wandering Israelites in the Bible, and their plight successfully challenges the perception that America is the great melting pot. By challenging the melting pot myth and utilizing similarly satirical stories throughout The Great American Novel, Roth effectively argues against the notion that both baseball, specifically, and America, generally, represent the pastoral ideal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2001

    The great american novel

    I read the Great American Novel, and found it lived up to it's name. While it bounces around a bit, and the prolouge doesn't make all that much sence, it's hillarious, and I recommend it to all who have the patience to sit down and read one long, but good book. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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