BOOKS: WHEN SHE WAS BAD

PHILIP ROTH, ONCE THE WAYWARD SON, PRODUCES A POWERFUL NOVEL ABOUT A PARENT'S WORST NIGHTMARE

This spring an unusual and virtually simultaneous blooming of senior novelists is taking place. Norman Mailer (see following review), Saul Bellow, the mysterious Thomas Pynchon and a seemingly perennial Philip Roth all have new works scheduled for publication. American Pastoral (Houghton Mifflin; 423 pages; $26) is Roth's fourth offering in fewer than seven years, making the 64-year-old a sort of Cal Ripkin of American letters.

Roth's three previous books--Patrimony, Operation Shylock and Sabbath's Theater--won leading literary prizes, which is no small achievement in the contentious world of book awards. American Pastoral could make Roth's record four for four.

The novel is...

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