Portnoy's Complaint Portnoy's Complaint discussion


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What Happened?

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message 1: by Caroline (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Caroline Most of the novel was a self-deprecating, black-humor look at Jewish culture during the middle of the 20th century; anyone have anything to say about the very dark turn the book takes when Alex arrives in Israel?
It is assumed he leaves "The Monkey" in Greece and flies to Israel, where he can no longer maintain an erection, but why does he try to rape the "Jewish Pumpkin"?
Clearly he would never have been able to go through with it; even if his penis had no failed him but why does Roth take it there?
There is the obvious Oedipal reference to sleeping with his mother, which Alex admits to but is it meant to symbolize him literally fucking his heritage?
Ideas?


Neal I think his return to Israel is also symbolic of confronting his self-image of being a Jew - as well as a "moralistic" man (that I assume the Portnoy of the title refers to).
It seems that Alex has two competing claims on his existence: his mother, and being a Jew (the constant references to shiksas, his long nose, and that wonderful passage where he is ice skating and contemplating changing his name to Porte-noir).
Maybe his abject failure in Israel is Roth's vindication of Jewishness - showing the reader how warped Alex's rants on being a Jew are. It's too bad that women don't receive the same treatment - the guy must have had a hard time with his mother (Roth, not Alex!)
-Neal


Matt I think there are (at least) two ways of interpreting what happened in Israel. One is that Alex's subconscious respect for his homeland won't let him treat Jews the way he treats other girls. Another is that despite defining himself as a Jew throughout the entire book, he really isn't at home around other Jews. So, the first is sort of a criticism of Jewish self-degradation. Even though Alex spends 200-odd pages bashing his heritage, in the end, he cannot bring himself to "fuck" Judaism. In a way, his heritage is the one thing he cannot mistreat.

The second isn't necessarily saying that Alex's self-degradation was okay, but perhaps that it was silly all along for him to be defining himself so narrowly as "a Jew."


message 4: by DocHolidavid (last edited Dec 03, 2012 09:53PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

DocHolidavid Incessant whining, in a New England Accent, by a perfectly healthy free adult male about the random neural noise that goes on in everyone’s young adult mind.
None of us give it any importance. Well, none until Roth decided it needed 275 pages, and he’s made a mint. I used to get twenty laps and fifty pushups for such. Go figya.


Alice43 I am re-reading this, I have to say it's even better the second time around.


Rodrigo Matt wrote: "I think there are (at least) two ways of interpreting what happened in Israel. One is that Alex's subconscious respect for his homeland won't let him treat Jews the way he treats other girls. Ano..."

I wouldn't say he feels any respect for Israel, for this wasn't his homeland at all for what I could make of it. So I would rather say I agree with your second option.


Richard Cubitt In the final chapter the Pumpkin monologues about the faults of the West and sees him as a product of capitalism - he is rendered impotent and ineffectual. The interpretations supported by Jewish/Freudian currents are still perfectly legitimate, however, I think, there is more to it than that. A magnificent novel.


DocHolidavid Richard wrote: "In the final chapter the Pumpkin monologues about the faults of the West and sees him as a product of capitalism - he is rendered impotent and ineffectual. The interpretations supported by Jewish/F..."

Like your comments. Obviously I'm a little to shallow for such interpretation, or a way to numb. Still Maybe ya gotta point. Good review.


Richard Cubitt Cheers, Doc.


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