I'd read other Roths and loved them: Sabbath's Theater, I Married a Communist, American Pastoral. I'd planned to read his latest one next but instead fell into Portnoy's Complaint because I found it for $3 in a nice hardback at a used shop Saturday.
There's just something about Roth's voice that pulls me along; he's not merely funny, but mean, compassionate, and wired all at once. His spirited mish-mash of politics and fucking is full of the neurotic irrespressible juices of life. Open to any of Portnoy's rants at random:
I believe that I have already confessed to the piece of raw liver that I bought in a butcher shop and banged behind a billboard on the way to a bar mitzvah lesson. Well, I wish to make a clean breast of it, Your Holiness. That--she--it--
wasn't my first piece. My first piece I had in the privacy of my own home, rolled around my cock in the bathroom at three-thirty--and then had again on the end of a fork, at five-thirty, along with the other members of that poor innocent family of mine.
So. Now you know the worst thing I have ever done. I fucked my own family's dinner.
These are rants worthy of Henry Miller, and yet Roth is a superior novelist, whereas Miller wasn't. Only Stephen Dixon and Gilbert Sorrentino make me laugh and think to the same degree. Marvelous.