American Pastoral (Franklin Signed Limited First Edition)

BY Philip Roth
Book Information1/1/2/US/FL/1997/1,350  •  244x172x40  •  1,008  •  Pulitzer'98  •  NBCCA'98(F)

The great Seneca’s brand of happiness premises on virtue, for “virtue alone affords everlasting and peace-giving joy, and even if obstacles arise, they are like intervening cloud that cannot prevail over the sun” (Sola virtus praestat gaudium perpetuum, securum; etiam si quid obstat, nubium modo intervenit, quae infra feruntur nec umquam diem vincunt; Letter XXVII, Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium). And the Senecan virtue is stoicism - the dogged proclivity to take in hardship unemotionally and without complain – that renders the stoic sage immune from the vagaries of Fortuna, for “Fortune cannot take away what she did not give (Quidquid in altum, fortuna tulit, ruitura levat; Letter LIX, Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium). Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is then the tendentious antithesis, an elegy lamenting the collapse of the Senecan sage in the hands of Fortuna. This is the true first edition from Franklin library’s signed limited first edition series of 1,350 copies while the first trade edition was published by Houghton Mifflin, both in 1997. The book won the 1998 Pulitzer prize.

Seymour “Swede” Levov, the protagonist, is the quintessential Senecan sage who, for most of his life, was also smiled upon by Fortuna. Blessed with good look, an unassuming disposition and athletic ability, the Swede was a star during high school when he led the teams in basketball, baseball and football. There was a stoic glory about him when “he got tackled and piled on hard, and just stood up and shook it off”. After college, he went on to inherit the glove-making business and marry a beauty queen, all the while keeping his feet firmly on the ground while creating the great American, pastoral way of life for the family. He had a daughter, Merry. And just when it seemed like nothing could go wrong, Merry grew up to be a fanatical teenager who, instigated by external influences, made several politically driven bombings. Merry then went into hiding and led a life in destitute and sexual violence. Fortuna was taking back all that she gave to the Swede.

The strain of Merry’s savage act broke up the Swede’s marriage but he would go on to recreate a seemingly perfect family by remarrying and producing three outstanding children. Alas, the damage was already done: no matter how hard he tried he could not undo the indelible damage and was henceforth haunted. The truth was Levov did no wrong. Indeed, “what on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?” Yet when Fortuna took Merry away, nothing, not even the Swede’s lifelong stoicism – a fate built “for bearing burden and taking shit” – was sufficient to prevent a break down. The rock in the Swede disintegrated; he sobbed and he could never be truly happy again. He was damaged good. Fortuna crushed stoicism.

This is the true first edition, limited to 1,350 copies, signed by the author. The book is bound in leather with gilt lettering to spine and gilt design to boards, and is gilt on all three edges.

This book is not very scarce and VG+ copies can be purchased from eBay or Abebooks from $200 onwards. This is a VG copy that suffers from some scratches of gilt on the board designs and the fore edge.


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