Philip Roth: Sonny Boy or Lenny Bruce?
NOT SO long ago, no one questioned the fact that the work of Philip Roth, whether damned or praised for its unrelenting comic assault on the Jewish family, Jewish attitudes about sex, and the mores of Jewish-American suburbia, aggressively represented, as well, less insular fashions in con- temporary culture. But the Jews, as he saw them, have remained his central obsession. Although he launched his career in 1959 with a formidably accomplished volume of stories, and followed that with two flawed but substantial novels, it was Portnoy’s Complaint-the scandalously explicit public revelation that Jewish adolescent boys did not just practice the violin and read Dostoevsky but also masturbated with strenuous hunger-that made him fortune’s darling and, definitively, the rabbis’ anathema.
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