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The Great American Novel Paperback – April 11, 1995

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679749063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679749066
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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

From the Inside Flap

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.

More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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This is the funniest book Philip Roth wrote.
Robert Watson
Over the years, I have recommended this book to everyone I know who is a baseball fan, and every single person tells me that they love this book.
If you enjoy a very funny read pick this book.
C. Cracker Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on September 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Philip Roth fans tend to divide into two categories. One group admires his more Henry James-like efforts: the Zuckerman books, "Deception," "Patrimony." And then there are those of us who like those books but also cherish every foul, hilarious, in-you-face word he's ever written, like in "Portnoy's Complaint," "My Life as a Man" and this wonderful mock history of baseball. (Although I can't say this enough: you don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy it.) This book, which is carefully ignored by the palefaces among Roth admirers, is his comic masterpiece. It is an encyclopedic satire of mid-20th century American life, with many pages that will have you falling out of your chair with laughter. It's a cult book, like "A Confederacy of Dunces" or Dan Jenkins' "Semi-Tough"; once you read it you will buy copies for your best friends.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By oh_pete on August 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Philip Roth's THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL is a big, bulbous, brocaded, bullshooting joke whether viewed from the box seats behind home plate or way in the back row of the right field bleachers-but let me not get pulled into the alliterative traps in which Roth indulges himself by way of his narrator, one Word Smith. Through the pen of the almost ninety-year-old "Smitty," we read the sad and disturbing tale of how the Ruppert Mundys of the mythical and defunct Patriot League were forced to spend all of 1943 playing away games after their owners sold their home stadium to the War Department as an embarkation point for our brave soldiers. Is Smitty as insane as many others obviously find him? Did the Mundys really have a one-legged catcher, a one-armed center fielder, a 14-year-old second baseman and a dwarf as a relief pitcher? Just who really is the Babylonian former ace pitcher Gil Gamesh? Was there really a Communist plot to destroy America by first destroying baseball?
It is curiosity and determination to finish this too-long-by-a-third book that may keep you reading through to the end, I'm afraid I had to force myself through it. We certainly aren't supposed to like any of the characters, so that means the story better hold us. And while it's a great story with a good number of laughs, there are too many long-winded passages that just aren't as funny once you get the rhythm down-the satire is dulled by them, in fact. I submit that Roth knew this and simply didn't care: by 1973 when this book was published he had been a bestseller for over twenty years. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he had a Dickensian paid-by-the-word contract for this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Rosengarten on June 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Smitty can talk. He's Master of Words, Master of Baseball History and Master of knowledge of the Patriot League. Ever heard of the Patriot League? I didn't think so. The Great American Novel will provide you with the history lesson your grandfather never told you about.

Previous reviews I read compared the book to Confederacy of Dunces. Both are excellent reads. Yes, it's nutty like Dunces, but if you are not a true lover of baseball, you may not like this book. It's all baseball (statistics, long explanations about players and their positions, and history).

Every baseball season I read a "baseball book" and this was my choice for 2006, although I bought the book more than 6 years ago (it sat on my shelf waiting for its day).

Some may find the book verbose and slow moving at times, but the overall style is quite unique and the story is hilarious. I laughed out-loud at least a dozen times.

I highly recommend this to baseball fans who aren't looking for Grisham-level writing. Roth shines with the TGAN. Don't wait 6 years like I did. Buy it now and read it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steven Winnett on April 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Roth's ribald rearrangement of American baseball history (as told by an alliterating retired sportswriter, Word Smith, who opens his narrative with the majestic phrase, "Call me Smitty") sets the record straight with respect to the suppressed history of the third professional baseball league, the Patriot League, which flourished from 1898 to 1945. This is a book "about" baseball, America, and "Literatoor" which, like John Kennedy Toole's wonderful book, frequently provokes the reader to laugh out loud. I would rate "A Confederacy of Dunces" to be a superior work, but I also think that those who enjoy the travails of Ignatius J. Reilly will equally enjoy the story of the pathetically decrepit Ruppert Mundys.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
If only I had stopped reading this book about page 300. It was some of the funniest writing I had ever read, funnier than _Portnoy's Complaint_, surely. Hell, funnier than Dave Barry, and smarter. Most of Roth's books have some wicked humor in them, but this is his only out and out farce.

The trials and tribulations of the Rupper Mundys, the baseball team without a home, are some of the most riotously hilarious things ever written about baseball. The first half of the book in particular actually made me laugh out loud several times, and I believe this is because Roth concentrated more on a series of preposterous _baseball_ scenes, delicious parodies of the game I love. It's a farce, but when the Mundys celebrate shutting out a baseball team of asylum inmates in an exhibition game, there's no lack of satire, either.

The problem is, Roth wasn't happy with a plain old farce and satire of baseball, and the second half of the book descends rather rapidly into inanities; it's purely political, in which Communists are attempting to destroy America by undermining the Patriot League (which, of course, they succeed at, and _that's_ why you've never heard of it). The political farce is dreadful, particularly the last hundred pages or so, and I remember being a bit depressed that such a ribald parody turned into an attack on McCarthyism. Not that McCarthyism shouldn't be attacked, but Roth's diversion into it is utterly lame.

I suggest you stop reading about page 340 at the latest, and cherish the rest of the book.
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