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Promiscuous: "Portnoy's Complaint" and Our Doomed Pursuit of Happiness
The publication of Portnoy’s Complaint in 1969 provoked instant, powerful reactions.It blasted Philip Roth into international fame, subjected him to unrelenting personal scrutiny and conjecture, and shocked legions of readers—some delighted, others appalled. Portnoy and other main characters became instant archetypes, and Roth himself became a touchstone for conflicting at ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 19th 2012 by Yale University Press
(first published January 1st 2012)
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Once, an exploded conversation in Jerusalem brought the submerged tension to the surface. In the winter of 1988, at the beginning of the first Intifada, I arranged a lunch at the Knesset between Roth, with whom I was traveling, and Ehud Olmert, then a Likud backbencher, with whom I had become chummy over years of covering Israeli politics. Roth began straightaway asking Olmert how, in view of the mounting violence, Israel could really hope to keep territories populated by so many Palestinians. O ...more
Being of the goy persuasion, I cannot claim to understand all the subtext of Jewish cultural identification, or for that matter, male sexual angst. I am the forbidden obsession of Alex Portnoy, a shikse. Having read "Portnoy's Complaint" in the early 70s in acknowledgement of its impact on the cultural hubbub at that time and on contemporary literature, I was interested in reading this study of the book and Philip Roth's pre-publication inspirations and the aftershocks he may have endured.