Monday, August 13, 2007

Portnoy's Complaint

Author: Philip Roth

First line: She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.

Why you should read this book: Roth didn't invent the stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mama and her guilt-ridden son, but he did, with the timing of a borsht-belt comedian and the insight of a Dr. Freud, breathe life into the character whose upbringing defines him as an individual while simultaneously crippling him as a man. In public, a precocious golden boy devoted to social justice and equality, Portnoy is a private slave to his unstaunchable libido, obsessed with the goyim, and well aware that he will never satisfy his mother's expectations. An American classic, Portnoy's Complaint speaks to all of us who grew up straddling the increasingly vast chasm between an idiosyncratic home life and the equally bizarre, yet somehow more enticing, conventions of the rest of society.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a Yiddische mama who could never believe your darling offspring capable of harboring perverse or perverted desires.

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