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The Breast Paperback – March 15, 1994
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"A new shock world of sensual possibility.... Need one say again that Roth is an admirable novelist who never steps twice into the same river?" —Anthony Burgess
"The Breast is terrific...inventive and sane and very funny. The trick which is the heart of the book is brilliant...and rich with meaning." —John Gardner, The New York TImes Book Review
"Hilarious, serious, visionary, logical, sexual-philosophical; the ending amazes—the joke takes three steps beyond savagery and satire and turns into a sublimeness of pity. One knows when one is reading something that will permanently enter the culture." —Cynthia Ozick
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is designed to be somewhat of a parody of "Metamorphisis", yet it takes Kafka's story from a different angle. While Kafka's story focuses on a general theme of isolation and loneliness, Roth further develops his recurring character Robert Kepesh's sense of sexual frustration. Along the way, Kepesh struggles with whether he really is a breast while being visited by Claire, his father, and a less than sympathetic colleague. With these visits, he tries to accomodate his new status with continuing a normal life. Yet we never seem to grasp the motive or reason for Kepesh's change.
"The Breast" is certainly a strange work in the scope of Philip Roth's writing. Many who enjoy his other works may be repulsed by the image of this book. While it is certainly not a recognized as some of this other writings, I believe it is near the pinnacle of his list of works.
- opening sentence of "The Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka Gregor had it easy compared to Professor David Kepesh, a college professor who wakes up one morning to find he has been transformed into a gigantic breast, in Philip Roth's aptly-titled "The Breast."
"It began oddly," Roth starts the 89-page book, and from the opening sentence readers are plunged into the new world of Kepesh.
Refreshingly enough, Roth refrains from turning "The Breast" into an extended pornographic joke. Instead, he spends his time exploring David's state of mind- how would you feel if you suddenly transformed into a giant mammary gland?- which makes for an interesting psychological drama.
First, David describes the experience of being a breast as though he does not quite believe it himself: Is it all a dream? How is he able to communicate with the others around him? Where'd his face go?
Later, David's mentality changes, first to a perverted interest in a female nurse who washes him, then utter paranoia that he is under constant surveillance while in his hospital room, and finally a blatant refusal to accept his condition and the belief that he has gone mad.
Things degenerate to the point where Kepesh believes he cannot hear his doctors' actual diagnoses; because of his "insanity" he only hears what he wants to hear.
Throughout all this, we see how David's wife, Claire, deals with her husband's new state, as well as the reactions from his father, his doctors and nurses, and his mentor, who collapses in giggles at the sight of David the Breast.Read more ›
But one thing is never in doubt--and that this book is FUNNY. Roth has an amazing handle of comedy on the page--a tough craft to master, mind you. This read is very short and quick, but it sure gives you some images to haunt and humor you for a long time. Kepesh's sudden sexual voraciousness and his lapses into hysteria and out-and-out psychosis, all while burbling about as a giant breast in a makeshift bra in a hospital bed, are the very stuff of sexual revolution, the sensual and boundlessness of desire overtaking the stuffy life of the mind that Kepesh had allowed himself to fall into. A breast that cries and screams and develops a desire for women to use its nipple for their pleasure? I would be surprised if no graphic novelist has considered making this work visual--that would be either a failure of imagination, or simply a certain amount of illiteracy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Essentially Philip Roth's apology for Portnoy's Complaint. Worth reading for big Roth fans, otherwise don't waste your time.Published 15 months ago by Raizel
Roth looked for a way to demonstrate his broad understanding of literature, but failed to include a plot in the story. I'm sorry I bought it.Published 22 months ago by Leon Leonard
Not even 1/16th of a star. Horrid book, waste of time & money. I only read it for my book club. Yuck!Published 23 months ago by Laurie Lee McMurray
This is the middle book in the Kepesh series. The first one, "The Professor of Desire,"& the final one, "The Dying Animal," both make references to Franz Kafka. Read morePublished on December 10, 2013 by John
I will be giving this book away. . . .if anyone wants it. It tries to be a story about the conflict between the intellectual (the high) and base instincts (the low) and comes off... Read morePublished on November 17, 2013 by Tracy Rees
A classic. If you ever read Metamorphosis in school you'll like this. Slow reading but worth the time. Thank you.Published on October 24, 2013 by Donna L Franklin
I ordered this book thinking that I was going to receive this exact copy, however I did not. I received a copy that was much much older. Read morePublished on July 2, 2012 by Squinter!
This is one of my favourite Roth fictions and has the sort of funny, mad, energetic exuberance of Portnoy's Complaint, while being much more absurd and surreal in its premise. Read morePublished on May 25, 2011 by bobbygw
The idea of a story about a man waking up to find he has been transformed into a 155-pound female breast would normally suggest a vengeful satire on men's treatment of women as sex... Read morePublished on February 9, 2011 by Steven Davis