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Portnoy's Complaint

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  29,556 ratings  ·  1,536 reviews
Thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality and at the same time held back by the iron grip of his childhood, Alexander Portnoy is one of Philip Roth's most intriguing and hilarious characters. "A deliciously funny book, absurd and exuberant, wild and uproarious".--The New York Times.
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by Random House (first published 1960)
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Nov 02, 2010 Malbadeen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah's other pervey friends
Recommended to Malbadeen by: Sarah (what a perv)
It's recently been brought to my attention that my book reviews frequently are not actually about the book. And I'm wondering why would you want to know about the book when all you have to do is click on the little blurb about the book and then get on with the fascinating reading about...oh, say where I bought my milk last Tuesday or my fondest/most traumatic childhood memory, etc, etc.
And, yet. I aim to please so here is my sincere attempt to tell you something about this book. It (the book) go
Doctor, help me. Alex Portnoy confesses his obsessions to you, his reader-psychiatrist. Sometimes he pleads with you and sometimes he rants at you. Meanwhile, you quietly scribble notes on his chart as he reveals secrets in a lengthy monologue that even your closest friend dare not share with you. "Shame and shame and shame and shame--every place I turn something else to be ashamed of."

You discover that this famous lawyer, who fights for the poor and the disadvantaged minorities, treats his gir
Jan 27, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are adventurous with offal
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Shelves: 1001-books
Earlier today I grossly contradicted myself by stating that I'd enjoyed all the books I'd read which were written by Philip Roth. Then I realised I'd forgotten about Portnoy's Complaint.

There is a school of thought which says to write well you have to write about what you know. On that basis I know I definitely did not like this book, although that unfortunately does not guarantee that I will excel at writing about it. With that in mind Philip Roth is official King of writing about what you know
I have a vague memory that when I first read "Portnoy's Complaint" as a teenager -- I was probably 16 or 17 at the time -- I either carried my paperback copy with me to my grandmother's condo, or perhaps just mentioned to her that I was reading the book. What a mistake. She was displeased with my choice in reading material, and wasn't shy about letting me know. This was many years before Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize, making him somewhat more respectable to the American Jewish community. To ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: constipated older Jewish men
Recommended to Mariel by: masterbators
I would have walked away in the conversation at the point of Portnoy proclaiming that he slept with the women that he did (anyone who would have him) as a way of conquering America. Essentially those who would not have him like historically against Jewish peoples (dude, you work for the mayor and are educated! You do what you want!). I am not Jewish and I wasn't alive in the '60s. Somewhere anyone is going to feel like that they don't belong. What I really liked about Portnoy's Complaint is the ...more
I'm in the mood for this now and it's reading like a breeze. God, it's probably shameful to admit that I AM PORTNOY, but it would be just like me to say that very thing and mirror the guilt of the guy in the book. You wish your parents could read this, especially my neat freak, worrywart mom. I think a lot of Catholic households and Jewish households are not a lot different. This shit is funny and real and insightful. If the rest of the book is as good as the first 50 pages then we shall be quit ...more
It's a miracle: I've finished this thing, this book. I thought to read the end as a commenter noted it was a shaggy dog story, which made me wonder what the punch-line was, but as I read about this woman he called "the monkey," I became so furious in how he wrote of her with such hatred that I had to know more about their relationship, which took me back another section, and then another, till I'd finally been led to read the entire dang book.

And while I was sure I'd write something hateful abo
Jr Bacdayan
Hey, Roth! What’s with the smug smile on that face of yours? What’s with that satisfied look? You think you’re now a goy or something? Are you thinking of a shikse or something? Are you high? You think just because you wrote a bunch of anti-semitic, auto-erotic stuff you’re some bigshot? What’s the sense with that piece of crap? Don’t you dare turn your back on me you balding Kike! You wanker! You kosher prick! You… oh, where’s the sense in this? Come on, mate. Is this really just to ridicule so ...more
G.R. Reader
Portnoy's Complaint was my first husband's favorite book, and he used to quote from it all the time. When we got divorced (it wasn't amicable), my lawyer asked how I'd feel about using that fact in court. I was strongly tempted but told him after careful consideration that it was below the belt.

As it turned out, my instincts were sound. The judge knew Philip Roth personally, and it would have been a disaster. I only discovered this several years later and was amazed at what a close call I'd had.
Roth sei tutti noi (me)

Un lungo monologo di un giovane ebreo newyorchese, alla fine degli sessanta, steso su un lettino di un psicoanalista mentre si lamenta della scombinatezza della propria vita dominata dalle figure genitoriali e da una totale anaffetività che si sublima in una bramosia sessuale infinita. Di questo parla Lamento di Portnoy.

Se avete la (s)fortuna di provenire da una società tradizionalista, con una forte impronta familistica, se avete la (s)fortuna di avere avuto dei genitori
MJ Nicholls
The definitive self-hating Jew novel. A searing literary stand-up performance par excellence. Woody Allen meets Bill Hicks. Explains where the famous inbuilt neurosis in New York Jews comes from. A brutal, universal portrayal of family life. The funniest thing I have read in a long long time. Every young man in his twenties tries at some point to write this novel and fails. Wonderful. Not a work of remarkable human insight and depth, but this is Philip Roth: the psychopathology of sleaze, if you ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adults; Guys; Americana Fans
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviewers
This entertaining and smartly written book managed the difficult task of amusing and impressing me. The protagonist, too Jewish to be American yet, in the end, too American to be Jewish, reeled me in with his humorous, potent stream of consciousness that tapped into my own musings and assured me that I'm not alone in dwelling upon, uh, inglorious imagery.

The humor comes across at times like stand-up comedy. You can see, then, how easily the author's concept could have gone flat. And so it would
Feb 20, 2008 Kat rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Woody Allen fans
Upon finishing this book, I heard myself say aloud (without warning): "that sucked."

There's a lot to recommend Roth as a writer and I think he's fully in control of what he's doing I just wish he were doing something else blah blah. This book is a 300-page monologue by a character who annoyed the crap out of me. Whatever fabulous edgy points Roth might have been making about the self-aggrandizement and self-congratulatory pseudolessons of psychotherapy, whatever incisive criticisms he may have b
”Ma che gli piglia a questi genitori ebrei… Perché non sono da solo su questa barca, oh no, sono a bordo della nave più grande della flotta: sbirciate attraverso l’oblò e guardateci qui, ammassati contro le paratie nelle nostre cuccette, gementi e lamentosi di autocompassione, tristi figli lacrimosi di genitori ebrei, stravolti dal rollio in questo mare di colpa… tale è la visione che a volte ho di noialtri, di me e dei miei compagni di lamento, personaggi malinconici e diffidenti, ancora sul po ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 08, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 100 Must Read Books for Men, Time 100, Modern Library Best 100 Novels, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Newark, 1960's to 70's. This is the life, or to be specific, sex-story of Alexander Portnoy from his boyhood to his 30's. He is a Jew and his family transferred from New Jersey to more Jew-friendly Newark when he was a boy. During that time too, his loquacious mother used to threaten him with a knife if he did not want to eat his meal. The same mother used to hold his penis for him to urinate.

The story seems to tell that it was his mother who made him into a person with excessive wandering libid
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Regular readers will remember that I'm in the middle of a long-term literary project right now, to read all eleven novels making up Philip Roth's autobiographical "Zuckerman cycle" in order to better understand the Postmodernist Era they discuss, from its start (right around Kennedy's assassination) to its
Smart, funny, outrageous, and totally irreverent concerning parents and religion, and sex, of course. For 1969, at least. And even though there have been reams of material written since about these subjects, this book doesn't feel dated. However Roth wasn't the only one tackling such subjects at that time, although he was probably the funniest. In the early sixties, in conservative catholic Ireland, John McGahern braved the wrath of the entire country when he dared to state some nasty truths abo ...more
Philip Roth is the kind of writer that just doesn't seem to show up anymore. He is unflinching, fearless and unafraid. He doesn't mind getting really messy, since his topic - being human - is one of the most messy there is.

'The most outrageously funny book about sex yet written' is quotes 'The Guardian' on my cover, which is misleading (but, of course, the publisher is trying to grab the brower's attention, I realise...). It's not 'about sex', unless you're being very broad and Freudian about t
Portnoy's Complaint has become known as "the sex book" by Philip Roth, and without a doubt it is not a book for those squeamish about frank & honest sexual portrayal. The book features Portnoy, a 30-something Jewish man from Newark, NJ apparently unleashing a 300 page tirade on his shrink as he describes his shortcomings in becoming the expectation of a Jewish man. He still struggles with what he deems juvenile, if not downright animalistic, sexual longings and impulses, yet he maintains a p ...more
I have heard Philip Roth's name bandied about for years, as one of America's literary giants, along with the likes of Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer. Portnoy's Complaint happened to catch my eye from the bookshelves recently, and I decided to give it a try.

I found that many people from my generation had read Portnoy in their younger years, mainly due the prevalence of sex in the book. It does contain the famous (infamous?) passage of young Alex Portnoy, using a piece of liver for a sex toy, and
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Tentative rating. If I remembered better it would probably be higher.

Read too long ago to offer any comment. The only thing I remember (I think, someone correct me if I'm wrong) is a remark by (the?) Monkey: "Pick a hole, any hole." Don't worry, I won't be embarrassed if someone says "You twit, that was from a completely different book!" Just don't say it unless you're sure you're right, cause I'll be depending on you.

I do hope to reread this, and other works by Roth that I've never read.

Time to
There's a lot to get to. Because on the one hand, if you're like me and your formative literary experience was largely shaped by David Foster Wallace--both in big novel experiences and in essay/literary critiques--then, unfortunately you come to Roth after the fact viewing him as one of the Great Male Narcissists. And this book does no favors trying to dissuade you from that perception. Here is a highly educated, motherly-smothered, Jewish, sex-crazed man who's entire ethos is Guilt. In a manner ...more
After hating and abandoning The Plot Against America, I wanted to give Philip Roth another try.

Honestly, I did not expect to like this at all. Roth is an author that always gets lumped into that little club of male writers who write from a very male perspective. Casual literary male privilege often leaves me cold and maybe a little angry. But this book was different: while Portnoy can be violently misogynistic, it's very clear that he is not a sturdy, stable man even though he desperately wants
Hugo Emanuel
Já me tinha deparado inúmeras vezes com o nome de Roth. Tais menções vinham muitas vezes acompanhadas da opinião de que Roth é o "maior romancista americano vivo" e que captura magistralmente o que são muitas vezes referidos como "os problemas de assimilação e identidade dos judeus dos Estados Unidos". No entanto, também já tinha me deparado com tais elogios feitos a Saul Bellow, um autor que considero monótono e desinteressante, pelo que estava algo céptico em relação á obra de Roth. Um dia des ...more

Funniest book I have ever read. Bar none. I never, NEVER laugh out loud while reading and I was literally howling several times as I read this.

It's so awful and so true.

Teenage sexual obsession/repression (isn't it funny how the two go together) and religious guilt/ political guilt (ditto) have been linked before, but never as desperately, bitterly funny as this before.

I always used to wonder why "realistic" novels about adolescence don't talk about masterbation. I mean everybody does it, righ
Si tuviera que resumir ‘El mal de Portnoy’ de Philip Roth en cinco palabras estas serían “sexo”, “judaísmo” y “sentimiento de culpa”. El protagonista, Alexander Portnoy, es el perfecto niño judío, estudioso, obediente y dulce, pero aún así todo esto no es suficiente para su dominante madre, para la que una nimiedad como no terminarse toda la comida del plato es una ofensa personal, una tragedia, una prueba irrefutable de que su hijito es un desagradecido que no valora lo mucho que le quiere su m ...more
Alan Chen
This is my first Roth and I like his writing style. He's got the straight to the point zippy prose that Vonnegut has and the wry Jewish humor of Woody Allen. This is a raunchy novel. Portnoy is essentially a self-hating Jew that is obsessed with sex/onanism. The sex/onanism is tied in with shame and he mixes the sacred and the profane. The novel pushes the edge in terms of graphic/foul language. While I don't necessarily feel it needed to go that far I appreciate that it's this author's style (a ...more
First half is funny but once Portnoy begins to discuss his current goings-on the writing gets a bit self-conscious and strained. Portnoy himself is too broad to be interesting. Certain aspects of the book date it considerably, which isn't necessarily bad unless, like me, you hate the 60s. Enjoyable overall.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I have now read a Philip Roth book. It’s fine. Feel like I oughta have been reading an Elkin.

I had a sermon prepared about sex. But who needs that? All I gotta say is, It ain’t natural. And you should feel bad about it. Or, rather, you will feel bad about it. And that’s okay.
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
More about Philip Roth...
American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories

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“You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.” 27 likes
“American society [...] not only sanctions gross and unfair relations among men, but it encourages them. Now, can that be denied? No. Rivalry, competition, envy, jealousy, all that is malignant in human character is nourished by the system. Possession, money, property--on such corrupt standards as these do you people measure happiness and success.” 21 likes
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