Fresh Take on Sex and Contemporary Jewish Lit

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I’m not a big fan of Philip Roth. I know I should be and everything, but he alternately bores me and irritates the hell out of me. I get it. He likes sex. Welcome to the club. Whatever.

Okay, that’s not really the most enlightened take on his work. If you’re looking for a less aggravated look at the work of Philip Roth, and the way it has influenced other important Jewish male writers like Jonathan Safran Foer, and Michael Chabon, check out this article over at the Columbia Current. philip_roth.1191167097.jpgI’ve read both Foer and Chabon, and had never really thought about how the way they write about sex relates to Roth’s writing about sex, but it’s not an insignificant point. For instance:

While Roth grapples with Jewish practice in the modern world, Foer and Chabon seem happy to abandon it. Yet more importantly, Roth’s Portnoy palpably carries the weight of Judaism’s future upon his shoulders. Indeed, each of Portnoy’s sexual escapades riddle him with the infamous plague known as Jewish guilt. The protagonists constructed by Foer and Chabon, on the other hand, feel no such qualms in their sexuality. Though they participate in contemporary culture in ways that Portnoy never can, ever–involved in artistic and scholarly pursuits, their characters easily shed Judaism’s chastening principles. Unlike Portnoy, they seem to care nothing for the welfare of the Jewish community, or the safety of their fellow Jews.

We have our own article on Roth, but check out the Current article. And then, if you haven’t read Portnoy’s Complaint, you really should, if only so you can join me in rolling my eyes at it.

Posted on January 12, 2009

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