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Portnoy's Complaint book cover
In 1969, Random House Inc., published PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT.

In its first year, over 400,000 copies of the book were sold.
by Philip Roth

After recounting the story of why his mother does not eat lobster, Alexander Portnoy analyzes the confession he's making to Dr. Spielvogel, his psychiatrist.

Whew! Have I got grievances! Do I harbor hatreds I didn't even know were there! Is it the process, Doctor, or is it what we call "the material"? All I do is complain, the repugnance seems bottomless, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe enough isn't enough. I hear myself indulging in the kind of ritualized bellyaching that is just what gives psychoanalytic patients such a bad name with the general public. Could I really have detested this childhood and resented these poor parents of mine to the same degree then as I seem to now, looking backward upon what I was from the vantage point of what I am -- and am not? Is this truth I'm delivering up, or is it just plain kvetching? Or is kvetching for people like me a form of truth? Regardless, my conscience wishes to make it known, before the beefing begins anew, that at the time my boyhood was not this thing I feel so estranged from and resentful of now. Vast as my confusion was, deep as my inner turmoil seems to appear in retrospect, I don't remember that I was one of those kids who went around wishing he lived in another house with other people, whatever my unconscious yearnings may have been in that direction.

Roth discusses the novel's obscene language in an interview with George Plimpton that appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW in 1969. more
Philip Roth chats with artist R.B. Kitaj
In A HISTORY OF JEWS IN AMERICA, Howard Sachar summarizes how some members of the Jewish community received the book. more
image article
Philip Roth sitting at a lunch counter talking to a waiter
Critic Bernard Rodgers places PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT in the American literary tradition of free expression. more
The American Novel