The publication of Portnoyâ€™s Complaint in 1969 provoked instant, powerful reactions.Â It blasted Philip Roth into international fame, subjected him to unrelenting personal scrutiny and conjecture, and shocked legions of readersâ€”some delighted, others appalled. Portnoy and other main characters became instant archetypes, and Roth himself became a touchstone for conflicting attitudes toward sexual liberation, Jewish power, political correctness, Freudian language, and bourgeois disgust. What about this book inspired Richard Lacayo of Time to describe it as â€śa literary instance of shock and awe,â€ť and the Modern Library to list it among the 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century?Bernard Avishai offers a witty exploration of Rothâ€™s satiric masterpiece, based on the prolific novelist's own writings, teaching notes, and personal interviews. In addition to discussing the bookâ€™s timing, rhetorical gambit, and sheer virtuousity,Â Avishai includes a chapter on the Jewish communityâ€™s outrageÂ over the book and how Roth survived it, and another on the authorâ€™s scorching treatment of psychoanalysis. Avishai shows that Rothâ€™s irreverent novel left us questioning who, or what, was the object of the satire. Hilariously, it proved the serious ways we construct fictions about ourselves and others.
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