Jeffrey's Reviews > The Breast

The Breast by Philip Roth
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Mar 16, 2011

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Jeffrey I decided I wanted to read some Philip Roth and started with the David Kepesh books. "The Breast" is the first in the series.

When I read the summary, Woody Allen's "Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask" leapt to mind. Roth's novel only shares the giant breast in common with the Allen's film however.

In fact for my take away ideas/thoughts, Kepesh could have turned into just about anything. Why a breast? Not really sure. Kepesh himself speculates going back to nurturing Mother or guilt over ex-wife, but neither idea is pursued.

Being an Literature professor, he speaks of the similarities to Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and Gogol's "The Nose".

I found Kepesh going through the stages of grief post-transformation to be an interesting framework for the novella. This structure kept me interested the whole way.

The other interesting point was Kepesh' struggle with his sanity. In his denial stage, he convinces himself that he did not turn into an actual physical breast, but instead is insane and delusion despite everyone telling him otherwise. When the psychiatrist tells him he is an actual breast, he believes his mind is filtering/twisting the words.

This reminded me of a scene in "A Beautiful Mind" about John Nash who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. A Nobel Prize representative come to Princeton to tell Nash he has won the Prize in Economics. Nash stops a student in the hall to ask her if she sees a man there talking with him.

The idea that a mind can view itself, even the pathological parts of itself from an outside or external perspective is fascinating.

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