Brian Calandra's Reviews > Sabbath's Theater

Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth
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Dec 27, 2010

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This series of rancid descriptions of sexual depravity, each one topping the last, felt like a like literature's "Metal Machine Music." Is this actually inspired fiction or just open pornography? The critics supplying the book's endorsements so enthusiastically believe it's the former that it made me wonder if either the reading community suffers from a collective diagnosable sexual disorder or I needed to immediately subscribe to internet pornography to properly culturally develop. In the end, I think, this slog is about whether a life devoted solely to manipulative, defiant obscenity is any more existentially fulfilling than any other life, with the twist of using the third-person omniscient to immerse us in the depraved's mind instead of providing a stand-in docent for perspective. This exploration of depravity for depravity's sake provides limited insight into the human condition because its characters are so idiosyncratic that they don't function well as allegories or communicators of universal truths - unless the inability to distinguish between multiple masturbators on a relative's grave is as common to the human experience as being stuck behind a slow driver in the left-hand lane. Roth is so committed to making Mickey Sabbath the most monstrous character in the history of American fiction that I my finishing the book was more a reflection of the sheer force of Roth's will. I just don't think it's much more than a nauseating soap opera.
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December 27, 2010 – Shelved
December 27, 2010 – Finished Reading

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

Mark thanks Brian for this. You expressed my dislike quite beautifully but you had more gumption cos at least you managed to finish the thing


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