Not only is The Great American Novel my favourite Philip Roth novel, but it’s without doubt one of the funniest and most satirically biting stories I’ve ever read. You don’t even have to like baseball (the backdrop to the story) to appreciate the plot; you’ll be too busy wiping away your tears of nitrous oxide-induced laughter to care about “Who’s on First?”
The year is 1943. America is deep into the Second World War, but the country’s pastime must go on! Thus is borne the Patriot League (a fictional baseball league in the U.S.) as a nationwide communist conspiracy attempts to erase its history because it’s become a fully open communist organization.
Roth, who like Alice Munro has “retired” from writing, may have published this book in 1973, and it may be set over 70 years ago, but its message still rings true today. Furthermore and therefore moreover, it’s still a great read all these decades on.
As proof positive of said claim, savour this passage:
“America?” said Gamesh, smiling. “Roland, what’s American to you? Or me, or those tens of thousands up in the stands? It’s just a word they use to keep your nose to the grindstone and your toes to the line. America is the opiate of the people.”