Jan. 11, 2021

EP 52: Book Reviews (2): Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint"

EP 52: Book Reviews (2): Philip Roth's

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Questions for PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT: Intro: Today, we're talking about Portnoy's Complaint, which was first published in 1969 and is written by the award-winning American author, Philip Roth. It was very controversial in its time and got banned from a number of countries for its candid and vulgar treatment of sexuality. 


1. Let's start with the plot - is there a plot? Or is it just a collection of thoughts? 


2. Why was the book so controversial? What did Roth seek to accomplish when writing this book? What was he trying to address in society about sexuality? This was written in the 60s, during the Sexual Revolution in the US.


3. What is the role of vulgarity in this work? What does it say about Portnoy as a character? Roth as an author? Attitudes towards women and vulgarity - what is the relationship here? Why was this book accused of being misogynistic?


4. What are the similarities between Portnoy's Complaint and the Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray? Both works feature sexual libertines as protagonists and also attack traditional sexual morality. What are the differences? (talk about tone, perspective, etc.) Talk about Dorian Grey vs. Portnoy - both are libertines, but are so different in some ways. 


5. Other themes in Portnoy's - Jewish-American identity (esp in light of Israel, assimilation, esp Portnoy's obsession with "conquering America through fucking"), parent-child relationship (Portnoy seeks to liberate himself from his strict parents' expectations through his libertine lifestyle and vulgarity, since he was always pressured to be a model citizen and perfect son)


6. Influence on Fortunus' Works - Ardalion and Portnoy's similarities, esp their attitudes towards sex and traditional morality, cynicism, and flow of consciousness technique, brutally honest tone - also, Sam's relationship with his parents has some degree of similarity, although they are nowhere as controlling as Portnoy's, and Sam's reaction towards his parents' strictness is different.

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