Tyler 's Reviews > Portnoy's Complaint

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
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's review
Nov 07, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviewers
Recommended for: Adults; Guys; Americana Fans
Read in October, 2008

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 have in the hands of less skilled writers. That it succeeds so well in a literary genre testifies to Roth's touch. The effect of the book relies not just upon its humor, but as well upon its general entertainment and solid writing.

We have here a pervert, one Alexander Portnoy, but an intelligent one, it must be stated. The confluence of excessive sexuality and the excessive consciousness intelligent people suffer from is about to drive this guy over the edge any moment, and boy do we hear about it.

In fact, the whole book lays out his ever hysterical rant about the quixotic quest for a girlfriend who has all the talents he wants in one neat package -- minus all the baggage, of which he has a detailed list. Such a woman has never been known to exist in the annals of mankind, but Alexander thinks she's out there somewhere and he won't take no for an answer.

Two groups I cannot recommend this book for are feminists and people who dislike excessive foul language. How Roth makes a great book out of a manuscript having these characteristics is hard to describe here, so the rest of you will just have to read it yourselves. At the very least, you may never look at the tags affixed to mattresses the same way again.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Not all feminists are offended by perverse sexuality. :P I think I would enjoy reading an honest portrayal of how men think, without all the smoke screens. It sounds like an interesting read.

message 2: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Is this the one with the famous Onan scene? I got to hand it to Roth, he is one self-driven writer.

Okay, Kristen, I should have said "not for people who value political correctness." But I fear that if too many women read men's thoughts in this book, the only way to repopulate the planet will be with petri dishes and surrogate clinics.

Newengland, yes, this is the devotee of the cult of Onan, but that's just one many stews this guy gets himself into in the story. I don't know if I could write something like this if I knew people would look at it as autobiographical. I hope Roth's parents didn't read it!

Ellen Liked the review, and also liked the book and most of the other books I've read by Roth.

How about feminists who are just fine with foul language?

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