Friday, 3 April 2009

Portnoy on Portnoy

Finished Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth today.

A novel as monologue. A man goes to his psychoanalyst and basically talks and talks and talks some more about what makes him an inadequate human being.

I really liked the idea of Portnoy's uninhibited desire to divulge EVERYTHING to his world-weary therapist, who, by the end of the novel, reveals that he has heard it all before - there are many more like Portnoy out there - does he think he's something special?

Obviously, he does - and at the same time, thinks he's a completely worthless excuse for a man.

Portnoy's monologue veers wildly between his desire to buck the ultra-traditional familial system in which he grew up and equally, his desire to prove to his conservative, eccentric parents that he is still the good and obedient son he was as a child.

Fear, guilt, rage, jealousy, confusion. Portnoy suffers from all of these, and in abundance. For me, as the reader, I felt myself sympathising with the therapist - who does this guy think he is? We all (men AND women) feel these things - but I was entertained by Portnoy's turn of phrase nonetheless.

I am eager now to read more Philip Roth - this novel was said to be a thinly-veiled characterisaton of the author - let's see if he continued in this vein.

Up next: Back to good old Dickens...Little Dorrit.

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