Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
Goodbye, Columbus (1959) is the title of the first book published by the American novelist Philip Roth, a collection of six stories. In addition to its title novella, set in New Jersey, Goodbye, Columbus contains the five short stories "The Conversion of the Jews," "Defender of the Faith," "Epstein," "You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings," and "Eli, the Fanatic." Each story deals with the problems and concerns of second and third-generation assimilated American Jews as they leave the ethnic ghettos of their parents and grandparents and go on to college, the white-collar professions, and life in the suburbs. The book was a critical success for Roth, winning the 1960 National Book Award and earning a name for him as a talented up-and-coming young writer. Still, the book was not without controversy, as certain elements in the Jewish community took issue with Roth's less than flattering portrayal of some of his characters. The short story Defender of the Faith, about a Jewish sergeant who is exploited by three shirking, co-religionist draftees, drew particular ire. When Roth in 1962 appeared on a panel alongside the distinguished black novelist Ralph Ellison to discuss minority representation in literature, the questions directed at him soon turned into denunciations. Many accused Roth of being a self-hating Jew, a label that would stick with him for much of his career. It is often speculated that the wildly obscene comedy of Portnoy's Complaint (1969) was Roth's defiant reply to his early Jewish critics.