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American Anti-Pastoral : Brookside, New Jersey and the Garden State of Philip Roth - Thomas Gustafson

American Anti-Pastoral

Brookside, New Jersey and the Garden State of Philip Roth

By: Thomas Gustafson

Hardcover | 14 June 2024

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One of the best-known novels taking place in New Jersey, Philip Roth's 1997 American Pastoral uses the fictional hamlet of Old Rimrock, NJ as a microcosm for a nation in crisis during the cultural upheavals of the 1960s-70s. Critics have called Old Rimrock mythic, but it is based on a very real place: the small Morris county town of Brookside, New Jersey.
American Anti-Pastoral reads the events in Roth's novel in relation to the history of Brookside and its region. While Roth's protagonist Seymour "Swede" Levov initially views Old Rimrock as an idyllic paradise within the Garden State, its real-world counterpart has a more complex past in its origins as a small industrial village, as well as a site for the politics of exclusionary zoning and a 1960s anti-war protest at its celebrated 4th of July parade. Literary historian and Brookside native Thomas Gustafson casts Roth's canonical novel in a fresh light as he studies both Old Rimrock in comparison to Brookside and the novel in relationship to NJ literature, making a case for it as the Great New Jersey novel. For Roth fans and history buffs alike, American Anti-Pastoral peels back the myths about the bucolic Garden State countryside to reveal deep fissures along the fault-lines of race and religion in American democracy.
Industry Reviews
"Thomas Gustafson's American Anti-Pastoral, a study of Philip Roth's literature through the prism of Brookside, New Jersey, is a well-written, intriguing, and accessible work of literary criticism. It is both an excellent contribution to 'Roth Studies' and at the same time something much more than that, a literary excursus into the relationship between place, myth-making, and literary creativity."- Michael C. Kimmage, author of In History's Grip: Philip Roth's Newark Trilogy

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