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Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

Portnoy's Complaint (original 1969; edition 1994)

by Philip Roth

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5,14497867 (3.65)170
Title:Portnoy's Complaint
Authors:Philip Roth
Info:Vintage (1994), Edition: international, Paperback, 289 pages
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Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth (1969)


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English (84)  Italian (6)  Spanish (3)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (97)
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Scoppiettante e grottesco, questo libro assume ancora maggior valore se si pensa all'anno della sua pubblicazione, il 1967. R. non risparmia nulla e nessuno, sopratutto il protagonista, dalla sua critica acida al conformismo e alla ipocrisia, e cosparge tutto di osservazioni così emotivamente dettagliate che fanno stupire. Un grande scritto di liberazione dell'inconscio, per nulla catartico. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
"Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature."

Sounds intriguing? Published in 1969, Portnoy's Complaint is probably the breakthrough novel that made its author, Philip Roth, famous. It describes Jewish protagonist Portnoy growing up to sexual maturity and his sexual endeavors through adolescence and adulthood. All this is given in monologue by the protagonist. Both book cover and epigraph suggest that Portnoy relates his exploits lying on a psychologist's couch and receiving therapy. In the end, however, there is a punch line, which Roth actually captioned as such. I will of course not give it away here.

This book is filled with stories about sexual encounters and also includes somewhat graphic descriptions of the goings-on in Portnoy's sex life. While this might be a bit shocking to find in a book it is actually not very unusual for a postmodern novel published in the late 1960s. Roth's wit and the humorous way in which sex is depicted in Portnoy's Complaint add to a special and worthwhile reading experience. At several points in the reading process I found myself thinking 'No, he did not just write that.' This is one of the few books that made me laugh out loud while reading.

Now, who should read this book? People interested in a description of the hardships of growing up as a Jewish boy in 20th-century America. People who like wit and humor in a novel. People who liked other books by Philip Roth. People who want to read a story that is different from (almost) everything they have read before. People interested in the topics of sexual frustration and sexual desire. People interested in the oddities of growing up as a Jewish boy who discovers he has a penis.

On the whole, Portnoy's Complaint is certainly a very enjoyable read with an ending that makes you laugh even more. You certainly will not be bored. 4 stars. ( )
1 vote OscarWilde87 | Nov 28, 2014 |
I picked up this book completely ignorant of its content, When I realised it was a first-person Jewish introspection I was concerned it would be a tedious ramble, reminiscent of Jacobson's The Finkler Question. I was pleasantly surprised; I found this book hilarious. I thought the ending was weak, but enjoyed how Portnoy spent his time complaining about traits in his mother that he himself possessed. ( )
  martensgirl | Jul 21, 2014 |
Most people will, by now, have seen the neurotic, self-loathing/loving, Jew with mommy issues schtick somewhere before, so "Portnoy's Complaint" may not pack as potent a punch as it originally did in 1969. Regardless, Roth's book feels like the best, most authentic version of said schtick that I've read or watched anywhere. I'm not a big Woody Allen guy, but Roth is kind of like a darker, better Woody Allen.

In case you don't already know what the book is about and haven't read the description, it's basically the narrator rambling to his psychiatrist (the psychiatrist has one line in the entire book) about his sexual desires, repressions, motivations, etc., many of which are influenced by his Jewish upbringing and the presence of his overbearing mother.

I thought most of the book was very, very funny. I laughed sympathetically at the characters that the narrator was complaining about, while often laughing simultaneously AT the narrator for getting so worked up about things.

I've seen/heard people complain about gratuitous depictions of sex and masturbation. One of the book's main themes is the narrator's simultaneous sexual obsession, guilt, and self-repression, so yeah, there are some sex scenes and some masturbation scenes. A couple of the sex scenes do get a little adventurous, but it's probably nothing you've never heard of before. In fact, if you've A) masturbated and B) had sex (these should both be prerequisites to reading "Portnoy's Complaint"), you're probably not too prudish for anything in here. It's a bit of a shame that the book has a reputation for sexual outrageousness, because it contains some of the most genuine descriptions of sexual desires and motivations.

The only weak point of the book for me was the ending, which seemed a bit rushed and not all that strongly connected to the rest of the book. However, given that the book is basically comic ramblings about a horny kid growing up and trying to deal with his stereotypically shrewish Jewish mother, the plot was never a focus and the end was always going to feel a little abrupt. All in all, it's well worth reading for the humor, the depiction of growing up Jewish in 20th century Newark, and the honest exploration of sexual motivations. ( )
2 vote Reed21 | Jul 17, 2014 |
This has been on my bookshelf for 30 years. I think I would have found it funnier if I'd read it then, Alex just came across as a whinger. ( )
  MsStephie | Jul 12, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roth, Philipmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seemed to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679756450, Paperback)

Along with Saul Bellow's Herzog, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint defined Jewish American literature in the 1960s. Roth's masterpiece takes place on the couch of a psychoanalyst, an appropriate jumping-off place for an insanely comical novel about the Jewish American experience. Roth has written several great books--Goodbye, Columbus and When She Was Good among them, but it is perhaps Portnoy's Complaint for which he is best known.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:32 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Philip Roth's bestselling novel, which takes the form of a monologue featuring the confession of a comic character who is thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality, yet at the same time held back by the iron grip of his unforgettable childhood.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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