This Stuttering Life: A Story Without Forgiveness

The Awful Rowing Toward God

I lately read Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, a novel that moves discontinuously from the early 1940s through the late 1990s in and around Newark and suburban New Jersey. The narrator–for this time he is barely present as a character–is the ubiquitous Nathan Zuckerman, and the protagonist is Seymour “Swede” Levov, the all-American boy from Newark’s Weequahic High school, a young man with Viking good looks and incomparable athletic and business gifts who could not help but make good. However, in an odd twist of genetics, Swede and his former Miss New Jersey wife have only child, a daughter called Meredith or Merry. Of course, Merry is misery itself. She has a catastrophic stutter and, before she’s out of high school, becomes a Vietnam-era terrorist who, in 1968, plants a bomb in her hometown village post office (“Rimrock,” N.J.) and accidentally kills someone who’s mailing a letter in the predawn hours. Later…

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About Ken Wolman

Sit still, shut up, and listen. We might both learn something.
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