2 Sentence Review: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
Portnoy’s Complaint, a novel by Philip Roth, should be mandatory reading at all synagogues during Bar or Bat Mitzvah training. Actually, it should be mandatory reading for anyone who can relate to this excerpt from page 99-100 in my copy (ISBN 0-679-75645-0), the inclusion of which makes this review longer than 2 sentences.
Pianist! Oh, that’s one of the words they just love, almost as much as doctor, Doctor. And residency. And best of all, his own office. He opened his own office in Livingston. “Do you remember Seymour Schmuck, Alex?” she asks me, or Aaron Putz or Howard Shlong, or some yo-yo I am supposed to have known in grade school twenty-five years ago, and of whom I have no recollection whatsoever. “Well, I met his mother on the street today, and she told me that Seymour is now the biggest brain surgeon in the entire Western Hemisphere. He owns six different split-level ranch-type houses made all of fieldstone in Livingston, and belongs to the boards of eleven synagogues, all brand-new and designed by Marc Kugel, and last year with his wife and his two little daughters, who are so beautiful that they are already under contract to Metro, and so brilliant that they should be in college–he took them all to Europe for an eighty-million-dollar tour of seven thousand countries, some of them you never even heard of, that they made them just to honor Seymour, and on top of that, he’s so important, Seymour, that in every single city in Europe that they visited he was asked by the mayor himself to stop and do an impossible operation on a brain in hospitals that they also built for him right on the spot, and–listen to this–where they pumped into the operating room during the operation the theme song from Exodus so everybody should know what religion he is–and that’s how big your friend Seymour is today! And how happy he makes his parents!” ¶ And you, the implication is, when are you going to get married already. In Newark and the surrounding suburbs this is apparently the question on everybody’s lips: WHEN IS ALEXANDER PORTNOY GOING TO STOP BEING SELFISH AND GIVE HIS PARENTS, WHO ARE SUCH WONDERFUL PEOPLE, GRANDCHILDREN?