Tonight when I turn in for bedtime reading I’ll be cracking open Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs instead of Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth.
Why is this noteworthy? Because I am abandoning a Philip Roth novel. Those are words I never thought I’d say/type. In fact, today while I was making a peanut butter & jelly sandwich I thought to myself, “Philip Roth is probably my favorite male author after John Irving.”
Until Portnoy, I hadn’t met a Philip Roth novel I didn’t enjoy. The Human Stain? Good. Sabbath’s Theater? Good. The Plot Against America, Goodbye, Columbus, Everyman, Indignation, The Ghost Writer — all good.
But Portnoy? It’s all OMG STFU. In fact, it’s so much shut the fuck up that I couldn’t even make it to 100 pages. I quit at 80. No, that’s an exaggeration I quit at page 78 with a chapter called “Cunt Crazy” that starts off like this:
“Did I mention that when I was fifteen I took it out of my pants and whacked off on the 107 bus from New York.”
Shocking! No, that’s sarcasm. I’m surprised he hand’t mentioned it because the previous 77 pages were all poop and masturbation. So much poop and masturbation that I couldn’t take it any more. And before you think I’m a prude, I’m all for poop and masturbation as long as there’s some story to back it up. But if the story is I masturbated all the time and my mom was an over-protective bitch, well that’s no story. That’s life. Fucking boring.
Sure, I get that Portnoy’s Complaint was published in 1969 when all that Freudian bullshit was in vogue and the sexual revolution was about the wreck havoc on the country, and I’m sure when it was first released it was the most hilarious scandalous thing ever. In fact, that’s why I wanted to read it.
A few years back I was watching a BookTV celebration of Philip Roth (is that the nerdiest sentence ever?) where Charles D’Ambrosio, Jonathan Lethem, and Nathan Englander all talked about how much the la-la-loved Portnoy. Of course I should have taken into account that three dudes might really dig on a book with a bitchy, overbearing mother and chronically masturbating son. Especially when those on or two of those dudes talked about reading Portnoy on the sly when they were teens.
This book induced so much eye-rolling in this ALMOST FORTY-year-old woman that I had to stop reading lest I strain an optic nerve or something.
And the worst part? The absolute worst part in a book that is (up to the point I read) all about masturbation (and not even in a sexy way but in a shameful, I have to hide my inescapable sexuality way) and poop was the ridiculous exclamation points. At one point I counted twelve on a single page. I think this book was punctuated by that cousin of mine who never made a Facebook status update that didn’t include at least three bangers after each sentence.
Fuck man, this book was full of suck and I cannot wait to read Breadcrumbs tonight.