Portnoy’s Complaint

“Doctor doctor, what do you say, lets put the id back in yid”

The recent news that Philip Roth has “stopped reading fiction” comes as no surprise to me; his book read more like a Kinsey study on sexual deviation than a traditional novel.  Perhaps this is due to the scatterbrained stream-of-consciousness technique that Roth employs to describe his coming of age (or more concisely, his sexual awakening) through a rant directed at his psychiatrist.  Written in a neurotic, comical tone, the story almost read like Woody Allen’s take on a Henry Miller novel.

The tame, minimalistic cover (albeit hot pink) was misleading.  Books of a similar nature tend to be less furtive in their intentions.  Once I cracked the book open, I was launched face-first into a world of teenage perversion peppered with angst, confusion, guilt, and all of the other emotions associated with growing up.

To take it a step further, the main character often uses his psychiatrist as a punching bag to air out his dirty laundry.  Not unlike the films of Woody Allen, some Freudian themes are explored as well as some strangely intense Oedipal conflicts.

Overall, the book had its pros and cons.  It definitely earned its status as a classic.  I still cannot believe it was published in the 60’s; it reads as if it were written yesterday.  However, once the shock value wears off, the rant becomes tedious.  I felt that I could have stopped about 2/3rds of the way through and still manage to grasp the concepts.  Regardless of my minor criticisms, the book is just as over-the-top as anything I’ve ever read and I can only imagine that well-informed middle school kids will continue to sneak peeks of it at libraries across the world for years to come.



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