The New York Times: “The fatal flaw of his protagonists, which Roth never sees, is their self-righteousness, from Neil Klugman’s smug dismissal of Brenda Patimkin, to Portnoy’s dogged attempts to blame everyone but himself, to Peter Tarnopol’s post-mortem revenge on his monster of a wife. In situations like this Roth seems to lose all perspective–no one but his surrogate exists, no other viewpoint has meaning–and the judgmental parents and the arrogant, smart-ass kid speak directly through the mouth of the thwarted, furious adult. For all his talent, the canker of arrogance and ressentiment have kept Roth from becoming a truly major writer: though his work has become more anguished over 15 years, it has shown very little emotional growth.” Ouch!
I disagree. I think Roth wallows like a knowing pig in his protagonist’s arrogance. He enjoys it. He even exaggerates it to the point that his irony can never be truly in doubt. Another great novel.