Steven's Reviews > Sabbath's Theater

Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
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's review
Apr 05, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels
Read in January, 2001

An amazing, densely narrated novel. The expression of characters uninhibited (or mostly uninhibited) by conventional morality is fully realized in the characterizations of Drenka and Sabbath. Of course Sabbath is also haunted as he navigates memory lane. And the novel is just crammed with his life, which bursts out and propels the novel forward, practically in spite of the variety of narrative strategies that Roth uses. The scene at the graveyard where Barrett masturbates on Drenka’s grave while Sabbath searches for a rock to hit him with, only to have the cop-son show up to bop Barrett on the head with a flashlight at the moment of climax, is just incredible. The amazing thing is how little space Roth uses to describe it (2 paragraphs), compared to the pages and pages he spends on more trivial events. I’m going to have to read this book again to get a better handle on what Roth is doing with the narrative. Sometimes he presents dialogue line by line, other times he embeds the dialogue within long paragraphs. Why do that? Then there’s that transcript that shows up as a footnote. And what about the obituary followed by the stream of consciousness passage? Roth’s pulling out all the stops here.
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