Here's a mostly useless understatement: Portnoy's Complaint is a really interesting book. The novel's only two scenes, really, are a psychoanalyst's couch and an analysand's neither entirely coherent nor entirely chronological memories, themselves overrun by rage, resentment, bitterness, longing, regret, and desire. Its Oedipal narrative roller coaster is bookended by the Diasporic pre-Oedipal mother-awe with which the novel begins and the post-Oedipal fantasy of all-American Jewish fatherhood, engaged during a final descent into Ben Gurion Airport, that is the keynote of the final chapter. And its representation of twentieth-century Jewish Americanness amounts to some of the funniest, most outrageous writing in the English language. But is all this necessarily relevant to a discussion about teaching Roth—especially, say, at the undergraduate level? For me, the answer certainly has something to do with the fact that it's just plain hard to stage this kind of problematization of identity, which is so close...

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