Matthew McCarthy's Reviews > Sabbath's Theater

Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
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Jun 27, 2010

it was amazing

One word of warning: Philip Roth's novel Sabbath Theater is NOT for everyone. Some people will not be able to make it past the first 20 pages before they set the book down, go take a cold shower, and watch some Disney classic. Others who make it past the first 20 pages, may drop off after 70 pages. This novel reminds me of seeing people go to a cinema, watch the first half hour of a movie, then see them sneak out before halfway.

Why? Because Mickey Sabbath -- the novel's libidinous antihero -- is quite possibly one of the most unlikeable characters created in the fiction in the past 20 years. Sabbath makes Humbert Humbert seem like Sesame Street.

However, it may take a certain type of reader to finish Sabbath's Theater, and another kind to enjoy it -- I guess I fall into the latter. While the novel's sexual perversity at times is extremely distasteful, and Roth's character is a complete misogynist -- controlling women like his puppet's in his Indecent Theater -- this novel is strikingly brilliant. While the novel may seem as a cry of sexual frustration during the onset of old age, Roth offers an amazing meditation on loss, as Sabbath and others lose control as death begins to surround them, and how the human race as a whole is imperfect and disgusting; as others hide this, Sabbath embraces it as he tears down social norms, antagonizing all around him to find a meaning in life; a reason to continue -- yet what does he find?

Extremely hard book to recommend, while probably my favourite Roth novel yet.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott Archer Matthew, you have aptly described my dilemma. I am at page 40 and thinking of ending the misery. I never start a book and not finish it, even if it garbage. A flaw in my character I guess. Its been eight years since I gave up on a book (although the last Pat Conroy book almost stopped my streak.

So my question is: Is it really worth hanging in there? And at what page will I experience this striking brilliance? I know Roth is a literary god, but couldn't he give us a main character I could care about.


Matthew McCarthy Scott wrote: "Matthew, you have aptly described my dilemma. I am at page 40 and thinking of ending the misery. I never start a book and not finish it, even if it garbage. A flaw in my character I guess. Its bee..."

If you usually stick with books, you will definitely finish it, if just to see how the novel ends. It strings you along like that. Roth excels in this novel, and it's a must-read if you are a fan of the author.


message 3: by Mark (new) - rated it 1 star

Mark Thanks for this Matthew. I found this book gross but do like to read thoughtful and thought provoking defences of books I loathe. I appreciate it. Cheers


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