Friday, March 31, 2006

Kenneth's Complaint

My brother Bill mentioned that he'd been wanting to read "Portnoy's Complaint," so having never read any Philip Roth myself I decided to check it out, too.

I've never had such ambivalent feelings about a book before. I read the first half back in January (I tend to start books on plane rides and I had to go to Florida for a funeral then). The first half truly had me laughing aloud. Having several male Jewish friends -- and being en route to a Jewish funeral in Fort Lauderdale -- I really enjoyed the story of young Portnoy's overbearing mother and the effect it had on his coming of age. Roth's writing and timing were wonderful, and the way it all read like one big breath on the shrink's couch was like nothing I'd ever read before.

Then I got distracted (somehow I'm reading four books at once -- something I never allow to happen) and didn't pick it up again until last week. Suddenly the adult stage of the book -- starring The Monkey -- turned angry, ugly and misogynistic. I almost quit reading it altogether. I'm not sure if my nonsexual, always-protective feelings toward women prevented me from relating to this part in any way or if the character is just sick and vile.

At the very end, the book turned around a bit with some funny moments when he goes to his gentile girlfriend's house for Thanksgiving in college, but all in all I ended up feeling let down by the book's overall effect.

1 comment:

Lavi Soloway said...

Read it again! I loved it, but then being a Jewish male it was hard not to take special pleasure in some of the more vivid characters. Plus I read it at least one million years ago when I was in high school. Ok better alternative get the DVD of the 1972 film adaptation with Richard Benjamin.