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How to Read Philip Roth

- Abstract

And what will COMMENTARY make of this confession? I can’t imagine it’s good for the Jews.

—Peter Tarnopol, in My Life as a Man
by Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s grievance against COMMENTARY, sardonically vented in several of his novels and especially in a lengthy scene in The Anatomy Lesson (1983) involving a literary critic named Milton Appel (based on the late Irving Howe), goes back at least as far as December 1972, when Howe wrote an essay in these pages titled “Philip Roth Reconsidered.” This essay followed the publication of Roth’s novella, The Breast, which Howe called “boring” and “tasteless,” but his main target was the best-selling Portnoy’s Complaint (1969).

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.