Review: Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint”
Read only because it’s on KAM’s list. Alex Portnoy is a 33 year old Jewish lawyer who relates, in obsessive melodramatic detail, his relationship with his mother (and father), his masturbation exploits, his love of shagging shikses (non-Jewish women). This is a character with a toolshop of axes to grind. Published in the late-60s, it delights in dropping the c-bomb and every other sex, excretion and masturbation word you can imagine. It’s meant to be funny, but it was like listening to an elderly uncle perform the gag routine that worked when he was 25 and handsome – and he hasn’t changed a line of it since. Lively. Generally a character too lame to find properly pathetic. I now feel I never need to read another Jewish novel ever again, given that most of the clichés live or were born in this one.
PS I feel I should give PR slightly more cred for innovation. This book was the centre of a censorship furore in Australia, so it played a key historical role in establishing standards of literary freedom (even if I think it’s not much chop nowadays).
Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading: Armchair and bed reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to: —
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley