Portnoy’s Complaint

You’ve got to love a book filled with the masturbation tales of a teenage boy. This one also got me props (or was it raised eyebrows?) from people at the bar where I was reading… “Oh I read that long ago .” and “You’d like it more if you were a teenage boy.” Despite the improbability of shaving off half my life and changing gender, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the stories.
Several layers of story take place within the book–
* Alex as teenage jerkoff king (popping off every spare moment into every spare household item: apple, baseball glove, the family’s dinner of liver, sister’s panties, the dirty laundry hamper, Mounds bar wrapper, empty milk bottles), chasing ice-skating shikses around the pond with pseudonym at the ready, winning the dubious honor of a hand job from the floozy who counted off 60 mechanical strokes then stopped (Alex finishes with a few more strokes before coming in his eye to the great amusement of his pals in the kitchen)
* Alex as grownup: responsible, working for the Mayor, playing around with his girlfriend “The Monkey” with whom he picks up a whore in Italy for a threesome and whom he leaves on the balcony of their Greece hotel room begging to get married, hating the Monkey’s inability to spell: “dir” for “dear”, “pleze” for “please”, detouring to Israel where he attempts to seduce women shocked by his antics, screwing WASP girls in vengance for the way his dad’s company treated him for 20 years (Sally going down on him but only placing it in her mouth then saying “what, you want more? But it’s getting big, I’ll sufocate…”);
* Alex as psychoanalysis patient, spilling this whole tale to his doctor who at the end of the story says “let us begin.”
One of my favorite sections:
“Because I love those men! I want to grow up to be one of those men! To be going home to Sunday dinner at one o’clock, sweat socks pungent from twenty-one innings of softball, underwear athletically gamy, and in the muscle of my throwing arm, a faint throbbing from the low and beautiful pegs I have been unleashing all morning long to hold down the opposition on the base paths; yes, hair disheveled, teeth gritty, feet beat and kishkas sore from laughing, in other words, feeling great, a robust Jewish man now gloriously pooped…”
***
Recommended by Papa Rose


auth=Roth, Philip
pub=1969

1 thought on “Portnoy’s Complaint”

  1. Started this book on the flight to JFK last Wednesday, finished it on the way home Tuesday. The perfect blend of easy-to-follow during transport rides plus funny and perverse enough to keep me reading. The thinking person’s beach read.

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