The Breast by Philip Roth

 

The Breast by Philip Roth

Not one of Roth’s best novels – a novella really – the first featuring the character / narrator David Kepesh, whre Roth takes Kafka’s conceit of a protagonist being turned into a beetle, and plays around with it. John Gardner writing in the New York Times comments that “the story doesn’t linger the way the best writing does, imposing its own reality on the reader’s way of seeing for days and weeks. I think the reason is this: Roth doesn’t chisel out sentences like a poet. He writes with intelligence and sophisticated cleverness, delightfully and lightly. Nowhere am I startled by a fine new idea, a turn of phrase that inclines my hair to stand up…” Which I think a little harsh: what of the narrator’s “I experienced literature as something unavoidably tainted by my self-consciousness…” which for my money is a fine new idea and beautiful turn of phrase: simple and clever. Gardner goes on “Roth is no Gogol–a comparison he boldly and jokingly invites–but “The Breast” is terrific for a thing of its kind: inventive and sane and very funny, though filthy of course…” Though Gardnerdoes concede that “It’s incredible… how smart he is for a man so hung up with his you-know-what.” Yes, well.

 

Mr A

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