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In this collection of short stories, Philip Roth confronts the question of American Jewish existence in the years following World War II. How to make the move from city to suburbs? To what degree can, or should, one shed those distinctive trappings of Europe that clung to prior generations? In the title story, this is all encased with in a superb summer love story, one that could have been about any young man and woman, but benefits from being about its particular subjects. The remaining stories are good, but read more like short thought pieces, or, at times, diatribes, rather then as coherent tales.
For the performances -- there are several different readers -- they are generally very good, but two stand out. Theodore Bikel's Israeli-accented take on "Eli," the final story in the collection, initially seemed inapt; the character is, after all, a New Jersey suburbanite. However, as the story developed, the performance seemed more and more appropriate, and by the end I believed it to be spot on. Finally, the enactment by John Rubinstein of the title story is funny, insightful, and brings you within the narrator's life as though you had temporarily moved into his home...
I had fond memories reading this book in high school. For a while now I've wanted to go back and re-read it (err listen) partly to relive some of those feelings but also to remember why it had an impact on me in the first place. I really don't recall many books l from high school impact me, but this one did... I think.
But I just didn't like it the second time around. There were moments I had some emotion: I suspect my good memories were mostly around the passion that Neil and Brenda have as I recall being in a difficult relationship then.
But otherwise it just didn't hit me like it did. Or maybe I just don't remember right. I'm old now.