A lot of the features I have come to associate with Philip Roth were already in evidence in his first book, a collection of six stories published when Roth was 26. It is self-consciously concerned with "the Jewish experience in America" (or at least New Jersey) as literary theme. He is willing to expose various human foibles to the point where already, even here, people have tended to characterize him as "self-hating Jew." It can be acidly funny. It is always well-written—Roth's gifts as stylist are underestimated at one's peril. And it won a National Book Award, the beginning of a stream of such awards across his career that have left him waiting rather impatiently for his Nobel prize. It is an unseemly position of privilege he has come to occupy, and in such a context this early work does start to feel remarkably slight and unable to bear such weight. "Goodbye, Columbus," the story long enough to be considered a novella, was first published in The Paris Review (more privilege). To me it's actually more about class and the full-scale flight then underway to the suburbs, telling the story of a summer romance between the scrappy young narrator from Newark and a wealthy, haughty, and disaffected girl from Short Hills. The romance is reasonably convincing, much more so than the Newark details, which indeed reek of self-hatred, except it seems less about being Jewish than simply resenting impoverishment. The rest of the stories are more obviously (and almost reflexively, it sometimes seems, by rote exercise) exploring "the Jewish experience in America" (or at least New Jersey). They seem to me almost painfully timebound and dare I say irrelevant: broad farce about a suicide gesture, in the Army now, generational changing of the guard, etc. They hold more interest now, collectively, simply as the opening scene in what has become a rather long and mostly interesting play, Philip Roth's career. This is hardly the one above all others to read by him if you're only going to read one (I consider that to be Sabbath's Theater), nor the place to start if you're going to make a project of him (I'm not sure myself about that one). But if you're going to make a project of him, this has certainly got to be on the list.