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The Professor of Desire

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,847 ratings  ·  201 reviews
As a student in college, David Kepesh styles himself as 'a rake among scholars, a scholar among rakes' - an identity that will cling to him for a lifetime. As Philip Roth follows Kapesh from the domesticity of childhood out into the vast wilderness of erotic possibility, from a ménage à trois in London to the depths of loneliness in New York, Kapesh confronts the central d ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 5th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,847 ratings  ·  201 reviews

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Read By RodKelly
Prose so lush and sumptuous and generous that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Simply stunning.
Oct 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
the name of this book makes me giggle but nevertheless, very good. i really love roth. it will be sad when he dies. this review is useless.
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I don't understand the difference between "chick lit" and this. Boys write about love and sex and their relationships with their mothers just as much as all these modern day female authors who have to suffer the indignities of having their debut novel plastered with baby blue or pink illustrations and dumped into the Chick Lit ghetto at Barnes & Noble.

Roth's character David Kepesh is totally solipsistic, lovelorn and arrogant. This bordered on parody. "Jewish New York intellectual rants about hi
Mark Wilkerson
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Professor of Desire is a book that works for me because its protagonist, David, attempts to answer the questions that can hound, often subconsciously, readers of serious fiction, or readers of books that examine desire, love, and sex. David himself is dogged by these questions as he jumps (or, rather, slowly enters) new relationships with women. All of the women are very different in terms of looks, personalities, and views about sex in a relationship, and David explores how these women fit ...more
Jonathan Hiskes
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Roth's novel brings to mind a line from Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars. An elementary school teacher is asked what students can learn from Shakespeare. Her immediate answer, the line I remember: "That we are made for more than our desires." Roth's protagonist comes off as little more than the sum of his untrained desires, which is a thin way to render a character.

The last ten pages or so function as a short story on their own, (which the protagonist notes), in which the professor takes care o
Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who has wanted to like Roth but been exhausted by the monologuing
When, earlier this year, Roth announced he was done writing novels, I thought, “Oh finally.” I have my pet sexist pigs, but Roth is not one of them. Given the claustrophobic first person POV, his diminishment of women figures too largely to maneuver around.

So the 1977 “Professor of Desire” turned out to be a nice surprise. Sure, there’s the measuring of women’s desirability by the size of their breasts, but for leavening there are the intrusions of Professor Kepesh’s voluble, comically self-agg
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a journey this was. For the past few hours, this book has almost been my sole companion. The book that went everywhere with me, the book I couldn't leave until I had finished. I don't know what exactly I wish to say but there's something I needed to find in this book, something about me, something about certain someone...

I only wish I could stroll in Prague now.
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, erotica, own, fiction
Roth can be an extremely corrupting influence if one is on the lookout for inspiration. David Kepesh is constantly tantalized by desire and is torn between the umpteen possibilities that can be thrown up by each pursuit. Three of his erotic relationships - a room mate with no inhibitions during his college days, a doomed marriage and a scholar who offers him some semblance of an emotional anchor form the main content of this otherwise 'plot-less' novel.

Roth cleverly ends the book with a sort of
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Much like Roth's famous Alexander Portnoy character, Professor Kepesh, the protagonist of this novel, struggles with the constant battle between the id and the Super Ego (something to which Roth's Mickey Sabbath simply gave in Roth's later writings) in man's Kafka-esque struggle to fit in to the norms of society (which is likely why Kafka figures greatly in to this book, including the main point of study of Professor Kepesh's work).

While the novel is a bit more subtle than other Roth novels and
Cynthia Robinson
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm drowning sweetly in these words. I'm not even being romantic about this.
Kyle Shroufe
This is currently my favorite Roth novel (I havn't read them all yet) and it is what made me a true believer in his work. I found this novel which is actually a sequel to "The Breast" (Roth's "Metamorphasis" double that has David Kepesh turned into a 155lb breast) I find it somewhat strange that not many reflections on his experiance in "The Breast were eluded to in this sequel. Regardless this is one of the most sexually, not promiscuous, but aware novel that I have ever read. I found myself re ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is:

1) As purely delightful a novel as Roth has written, one of the very strongest of his early novels 2) As harrowing a novel of addiction as The Gambler or Hangover Square 3) A wonderful palette-cleanser after running the gauntlet that is Gaddis's JR.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another well written, entertaining, humorous, enjoyable, first person narrative novel by Philip Roth about issues including what it is to be a man and what is a contented happy life. We learn about the life of David Kepesh from his teenage years to his mid 30s. In the first 20% of the book David describes his sexual life in his college years, mainly with two Swedish women. He then marries the beautiful Helen and after a year of bliss, the marriage becomes intolerable for David. It is from this p ...more
Cathal Kenneally
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Erudite, witty but also very entertaining; typically Roth. Sometimes h we writes some very outlandish books that for the time of writing are a bit too risque and bawdry for some. This book was published in 1977. I think he wrote stuff no one else was willing to. I can't say there's one bad book he wrote. If he was alive maybe he would tell us which book he could have written better
Jill Condon
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Even though I enjoyed this book im only giving it 2 Stars because I need to stop exclusively reading material that aggravates my fantasy of becoming an insecure but highly educated Jewish man’s manic pixie shiksa goddess #YepImACharlotte #anniehall
Alexander Bancroft
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I struggled through the first three quarters of the book and it wasn't until the last thirty or forty pages that I felt the character's relationships had depth. That said, I thought the ending was done brilliantly. While many books are good throughout and have muted endings, this was arduous reading throughout and was capped off with an intriguing ending.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
While comparisons have been drawn between this work and Portnoy, I do believe that this work ought to stand on its own. For one, our narrator, professor David Kepesh, is larger, more commanding and traverses an wider arc: from a Jewish-American boyhood innocence, to cosmopolitan sexual prowess (and that's putting it mildly), back to America for the lukewarm and utterly ruinous marriage, then to a depression that travels cost to cost, and finally following a psychoanalysis of his own, redemption, ...more
Jim Leckband
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dum-dum-dum-dummmm. If you say the previous syllables out loud you probably can figure out one of the most recognizable pieces of music in history (besides, of course, "Ooops, I Did It Again"). Beethoven created his fifth symphony out of four stupid notes. From almost any other composer the result would be "BBBBBorrrinng" as Baumgarten in this book would blurt (and using the same descension by a minor third as LvB did). But the symphony isn't boring, not by a long shot, and neither is "The Profe ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This book shows the extent to which Roth knows one of life's most important parts, desire, and proves his brilliance in giving loyal utterance to the reality he has absorbed from his own life. The story is actually the history of David Kepesh's sexual desire, its ebb and flow, its hope and desperation, its deception. Roth's scrupulous psychological realism and attention to detail in his description of desire and its rise and fall is amazing. His working into the texture of the story an omniprese ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A compact and prodding rumination on the struggle to balance nagging, animalistic sexual desire with basic human decency, social decorum, and the instinctual
drive to find our “significant other.” Can we have both? Are we a slave to the former in choosing life without convention? Are we deniers of our basest instincts for opting for propriety and family over prowess and fantasy? In these tense, despairing pages, we confront the possibility that, in pursuing one over the other, we must lose a piec
It was when I read the then-new American Pastoral that I exclaimed of Roth, "He has grown up!" Here, I suspect, is where that process begins. As with the dispiriting My Life as a Man, we have a protagonist dealing with a Medea-esque castrating harridan, but by the end of this one, there is at least a shred of hope that dealings between the sexes won't always and inevitably be catastrophic emotional sieges. A shred. A start.

Actually read this in the 3rd volume of the Library of America edition, e
Frank Karioris
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is only a shame to have only read it once, and only a short dream to read again. Each time I read Roth I find myself, in the first pages, unforgivably blithe in my pace and viewing - forgetting the depth of each note. Having now read all three Kepesh books - though out of order! - I think it is time to read them once again. Or, on the other hand, who knows. Like a good stew, the book needs to simmer awhile.
Ivan Mulcahy
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There is a pared clarity here to Roth's dissection of male sexual yearning that is piercing. But it's the portrait of the relationship with the father that touched most. Sweet affection doesn't stop Roth exposing the chasm of embarrassment between the simple father's tacky gift to his writer son and the son's inability to even cope. Perfect book got me.
Pavini Bhutani
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's because I'm on the Roth rollercoaster of novels, but The Professor of Desire was one fun ride. Albeit a long one, chronicling Kepesh's misadventures, longings, and commitment issues throughout his young adult years to his mid thirties. The women and their personalities change, his career progresses, his parents grow older - but the eternal dilemma of being in long term relationship with fading desire vs being alone, lonely, but full of desire never does. The catch 22 of life?
Either w
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
The Roth Project continues into 2020! I feel like by this point (1977) Roth is starting to mature and his narratives are bit less experimental. The early years of Kepesh, his frolicking around Europe as a 1950s bohemian are a bit surreal, but less Joyce-ian stream of consciousness than the dreamlike "The Breast". Interesting on this one, I borrowed it from the Geneva Library which had to obtain a copy from some library in Southern Illinois, and on reaching page 202, all of a sudden page 172 was ...more
B. Glen Rotchin
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been asking myself, why was this novel so superior to “My Life As A Man” which was written at around the same time and dealt with many of the same themes; flawed relationships, the unfathomability of the male psyche and sex drive, self-destruction and psychoanalysis. But the prose in The Professor of Desire are just so much richer, polished and more lyrical than in MLAAM. The latter novel is amateurish in comparison, like a clunky overwritten failed literary experiment, stories within a sto ...more
Dan Graser
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yet another absurd main protagonist and ridiculous vacillations between gravitas and outright smut, that means it's a Roth novel! This contains many additional Roth trademarks especially his incredible facility with the language of extremes, though is not particularly strong on depth of narrative. What is truly unique about this work among his output is the genuine, deep, and sensible portrayal of his main character's parents. I can't recall, at least in the dozens of books of his I've experienc ...more
Tasos Grivas
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
That's the worst Roth's book I have ever read.

And the point to note is that it just not up to the Roth's standards... i.e if you are used of reading garbage you will really like it but if you have read the rest of Roth's work then any comparison will be inevitably painful for this one.

-What is its main problem?
-Its end.

The book runs smoothly pointing out that it deserves three stars (maybe even four if you feel generous) but its finishing is a shame... maybe the main issue is that it's just to
Andrew Spink
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: english, literature
In the months before his recent death, I kept reading about Philp Roth, with even Salman Rushdie describing him as his literary hero. So I felt I really ought to read something by him and chose a book at random, by which I mean price. This was maybe a mistake. The Professor of Desire is indeed well written, but the subject is a little odd; closer to the title that I had bargained for. That meant that I struggled through the first half and only began to enjoy it towards the end. Nevertheless, the ...more
Michael Battaglia
Years ago the local public library that I worked for was putting some paperbacks up for sale that had been donated. A couple of them were Philip Roth novels and as I'd heard he was a fairly important 20th century author, I snagged a handful to put in my queue. One of them "Goodbye, Columbus" I eventually read but the other had such a goofy title and a cover that made the battered paperback look like something utterly tawdry that I couldn't bring my mid-twenties self to actually read it, and woun ...more
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Philip Milton Roth was 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 in ...more

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