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Philip Roth: Novels 1967-1972: When She Was Good / Portnoy's Complaint / Our Gang / The Breast (Library of America) Hardcover – August 18, 2005
Everything We Keep: A Novel
On the day of her wedding, she buried her fiancé—and unearthed shocking secrets. Learn More
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Top Customer Reviews
It is a realistic, but extreme story set mostly around 1950 in small town Midwest.
Lucy Nelson is an ambiguous heroine. We can sympathize with her problems, but she doesn't make it easy on us. She is contrarian and unreasonable. She is angry, which is understandable in her situation as a teenage mum, but rarely likable. She is brutally honest and consistent, but self-righteous and unpleasant.
She hates her father, the drinker and wife beater, and despises her husband, the lazy weakling, as well as everybody else. Not just men, as some reviewers have written. We are not comfortable with her frustrated sense of entitlement. She lives and fails with her rigid way of being 'good'. A strong portrait of the obsessions of an 'enemy ridden' personality. Among the 4 texts in this volume, I find it the most interesting and the one that survived time best.
Next is 'Portnoy's Complaints', which brought Roth a commercial breakthrough. He had been appreciated and awarded for a dozen years already, but now came the big bucks. Portnoy has a mother issue and a sex obsession. The narration is the adult man's monologue to a shrink, about Jewish childhood, masturbation habits since boyhood, his fixation on 'goy' women, his lack of commitment to anybody. The novel is funny and provocative, but slightly dated (its offensiveness has become common place) and it derails towards the end in a tasteless and offensive climax. I don't see it as a major master piece.
Then comes a short satirical novel on Richard Nixon, 'Our Gang'. It is unfortunately quite dated. Reality exceeded Roth's polite expectations.Read more ›
When She Was Good: The first and best novel collected here, When She Was Good is somewhat of an anomaly among Roth's fiction, as the main character, Lucy Nelson, is not Jewish. The humor and pain in this book is also slightly different. Both the humor and the tragedy are less cruel than in Roth's later novels (not that I'm knocking on Roth's cruelty). This novel hits home, and there's something terribly sad about Lucy not being able to reform people the way she would like to.
Portnoy's Complaint: Possibly Roth's most famous novel, and maybe his funniest, but it certainly isn't the best. Alexander Portnoy is like one of Roth's later characters, Mickey Sabbath, in the sense that he is obsessed with sexual pleasure. The difference is the way in which it is obtained: while Mickey Sabbath is a seducer of women, Alexander Portnoy, the "protagonist" of Portnoy's Complaint, prefers to do the act himself. So much so that, in one scene, Alex, while with a woman, has to start thinking about himself in order to get off. If that makes you uncomfortable, this book is not for you, nor is Roth in general, because that's mild by comparison to most of the book. While this novel is hilarious, I got tired of it after a while, and I wish it had elaborated on Portnoy's relationship with his mother.
Our Gang: Considering the plot (Nixon administration) of Our Gang, which did not interest me in the slightest, I actually quite enjoyed this novel.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
WAY too much foul language and sex. I knew there would be some of this but this book was over the top -- became tedious. Read about half of it.Published 13 months ago by John T. Way