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Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories (Vintage International) Paperback – January 13, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1974's My Life as A Man Roth examines how a writer revises his reality, compiling two stories "by" one Peter Tarnopol and a third in which Tarnopol is the fictional protagonist. Vintage will simultaneously reissue Goodbye, Columbus , Roth's National Book Award-winning first novel, together in a new edition with five short stories.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A masterpiece." —Newsweek
"Unlike those of us who come howling into the world, blind and bare, Mr. Roth appears with nails, hair, teeth, speaking coherently. He is skilled, witty, energetic and performs like a virtuoso." —Saul Bellow
"Superior, startling, incandescently alive." —The New Yorker
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Okay, it was only $7.69 but all of the OCR glitches made it too painful to read any longer after getting almost halfway into the book.
What makes it so wonderful? The quality of the prose is exceptional. It is precise and often poetic without ever using that overly precious tone from which many short story authors suffer. Roth takes careful aim at upwardly mobile Jewish life-- most of the stories in the volume look at least subtly at the internal (identity) clash that arises as Jewish families start integrating into the mainstream middle class. What's nice is that he is unflinching and often critical without ever feeling as though he were being mean. Goodbye Columbus is beautiful and thought provoking, wry but not bitter.
The novella is published together with five short stories, "The Conversion of the Jews", "Defender of the Faith", "Epstein", "You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings", and "Eli, the Fanatic". "The Conversion of the Jews" is generally considered the best of the lot, but personally I was more drawn to "Defender of the Faith". All five stories are worth reading, even if they are not as strong as the title novella.
The novella is well worth the admission price as a tale of young love between two 20-somethings from New Jersey; it blends issues of the heart, class and the sexual mores at mid-20th century and touches on the differences among Jews as well as Jewish *assimilation* in the 50's.
Goodbye, Columbus has all the heart that Portnoy's Complaint lacks. It is the proverbial "coming of age" story of Neil Klugman. Neil is the Philip Roth stand-in - like Roth, he is a poor Jewish boy from Newark. He has his first great love affair with Brenda Patimkin - a rich girl from Short Hills. Brenda is all he could ever want in a woman, so everything should be perfect...right? The reader may guess at the stops along the way, but predictability isn't really the issue - it's the journey that matters.
I found the short stories in this collection less appealing. They are all on the same theme: the aversion Roth feels towards Jewish-American culture, while being a Jewish-American. This is one of the central themes in his novels as well, but his short stories are not able to support this theme as well as the other diversions that make his novels enjoyable. As such, the short stories are one-trick-ponies, and I found them tiring. Perhaps this is the reason that Roth is known as a novelist and not a short-story writer. However, the book is worth purchasing for the novella alone.