The recent news that Philip Roth has “stopped reading fiction” comes as no surprise to me; his book read more like a non-fiction Kinsey study on sexua...moreThe recent news that Philip Roth has “stopped reading fiction” comes as no surprise to me; his book read more like a non-fiction Kinsey study on sexual deviation than a traditional novel. Perhaps this is due to the scatterbrained stream-of-consciousness technique that Roth employs to describe his coming of age (or more concisely, his sexual awakening) through a rant directed at his psychiatrist. Written in a neurotic, comical tone, the story almost read like Woody Allen’s take on Tropic of Cancer.
The tame, minimalistic cover (albeit hot pink) was misleading. Books of a similar nature tend to be less furtive in their intentions. Once I cracked the book open, I was launched face-first into a world of teenage perversion peppered with angst, confusion, guilt, and all of the other emotions associated with growing up.
To take it a step further, the main character often uses his psychiatrist as a punching bag to air out his dirty laundry. Not unlike the films of Woody Allen, some Freudian themes are explored as well as some strangely intense Oedipal conflicts.
Overall, the book had its pros and cons. It definitely earned its status as a classic. I still cannot believe it was published in the 60’s; it reads as if it were written yesterday. However, once the shock value wears off, the rant becomes tedious. I felt that I could have stopped about 2/3rds of the way through; in retrospect, I probably could have and still have grasped the concepts. Regardless of my minor criticisms, the book is just as over-the-top as anything I’ve ever read and I can only imagine that well-informed middle school kids will continue to sneak peeks of it at libraries across the world for years to come.(less)
Have you ever found yourself surrounded by pompous, pretentious jerks that do a lot of talking but hardly ever have anything worth saying? Of course y...moreHave you ever found yourself surrounded by pompous, pretentious jerks that do a lot of talking but hardly ever have anything worth saying? Of course you have, especially if you once attended any college. There is no avoiding it. Hell, you might even consider this review a good example (but I can assure you, that is not my goal).
The book’s protagonist, Jim, is the newly hired professor of Medieval Studies at one of England’s uppity red brick universities. This is all well and good except for the fact that Jim does not particularly enjoy Medieval Studies, nor does he enjoy the other professors, all of whom are completely self-involved and full of hot air. It might not come as a surprise that for this very reason, Jim often finds himself slipping away to the bar.
Much like Jim, Kingsley Amis was almost as famous for his drinking as he was for this novel. In a shining example, his wife once wrote “1 fat Englishman. I fuck anything” on his back with her lipstick when he was passed out on the beach. As a tribute to Amis and his work, I find myself a few beers in as I write this review. Hopefully it doesn’t have a negative impact on my writing abilities.
In summation, this novel is hilarious, relatable, and very British. Rooting for Jim as he weasels his way out of sticky situations makes this book hard to put down and conjures up a Monty Python-esque version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also, here’s a fun fact: my mother reads it once a year. I now understand why. Cheers!(less)