The Great American Novel

Colonel Chichikov relates how his experiences with American capitalism provided Stalin with this classic witticism:

From each according to his stupidity, to each according to his greed.

I have to admit that when I read this passage in Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel, I was confused: although the witticism is attributed to Stalin, it seemed to fit the current Republican Party much better than pre-war Communism in the USSR.

In fact, the more I read Roth’s novel, the more it illuminated the current political situation in the United States. How do you gain power, power to control the population? Lies, character assassinations, spreading fear, promoting myths, creating enemies, developing hatred and fear.


For the most part, The Great American Novel is about baseball as played in the long forgotten Patriot League which competed with the National and the American Leagues before the second World War. But baseball is a metaphor and Roth is exposing not just the attack on baseball but also the attack on the fabric of the American civilization.

Toward the end of the novel, the question is raised:

What if baseball is destroyed from within?

And the reply is

When that happens … it’ll be a sad day indeed, but it won’t be the atheistical materialistic Communists who will have done it. … Who? The atheistical materialistic capitalists, that’s who!

Anything by Philip Roth is an excellent choice for your reading pleasure and it might even stir up those little gray cells if you’re not careful.

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