Sabbath's Theater

Written by: Philip Roth

Sabbath's Theater Book Cover
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

Sabbath's Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero. At sixty-four Sabbath is still defiantly antagonistic and exceedingly libidinous; sex is an obsession and a principle, an instrument of perpetual misrule in his daily existence. But after the death of his long-time mistress - an erotic free spirit whose great taste for the impermissible matches his own - Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past. Bereft and grieving, tormented by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him, he contrives a succession of farcical disasters that take him to the brink of madness and extinction.
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Sabbaths Theater Reviews

Kirk
I can respect other folks' positive reviews of SABBATH's THEATER. I'm normally a big Roth fan, too---I really got a lot out of AMERICAN PASTORAL, THE HUMAN STAIN, and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. SABBATH for me just didn't do the trick, however. Part of my issue with it, I think, is that Roth hasn't really worried about form or plot in ages---his novels unfold now as dramatic monologues, episodic and without any real drive. As a result, there's a distance between the reader and the action that can I can respect other folks' positive reviews of SABBATH's THEATER. I'm normally a big Roth fan, too---I really got a lot out of AMERICAN PASTORAL, THE HUMAN STAIN, and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. SABBATH for me just didn't do the trick, however. Part of my issue with it, I think, is that Roth hasn't really worried about form or plot in ages---his novels unfold now as dramatic monologues, episodic and without any real drive. As a result, there's a distance between the reader and the action that can make the reading a bit of a slog. It's tough enough to get through something relatively short like THE DYING ANIMAL, but when it's a big, self-consciously epic effort like SABBATH, it can be w-o-r-k. With a capital W even.

I also think it's a generational difference. For Roth and other Silent Generation writers, the idea of sex as liberation was indeed revolutionary. They were throwing off those cliched shackles of repression. Only nowadays we live in an entirely unrepressed age (even here in Alabama, believe it or not), and the old SG preoccupation with getting the guilt out of lust feels a little like fighting a war that was won a while back---like when I was a kid, maybe, around the time of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT. For me, Roth on sex works best when his ideas of it are condensed into a symbol instead of allowed to ramble on discursively---the diaphragm in GOODBYE COLUMBUS or the sudden appearance of DEEP THROAT at the end of PASTORAL say something because they capture in miniature their era. But when sex is Roth's entire subject, his basic thesis is that desire is the one thing we have to strike out against death with, and that point gets a little old, especially when it's so literally demonstrated that the hero Micky decides to masturbate over the grave of his dead lover. No, seriously, he does....
Kirk
I can respect other folks' positive reviews of SABBATH's THEATER. I'm normally a big Roth fan, too---I really got a lot out of AMERICAN PASTORAL, THE HUMAN STAIN, and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. SABBATH for me just didn't do the trick, however. Part of my issue with it, I think, is that Roth hasn't really worried about form or plot in ages---his novels unfold now as dramatic monologues, episodic and without any real drive. As a result, there's a distance between the reader and the action that can make the reading a bit of a slog. It's tough enough to get through something relatively short like THE DYING ANIMAL, but when it's a big, self-consciously epic effort like SABBATH, it can be w-o-r-k. With a capital W even.

I also think it's a generational difference. For Roth and other Silent Generation writers, the idea of sex as liberation was indeed revolutionary. They were throwing off those cliched shackles of repression. Only nowadays we live in an entirely unrepressed age (even here in Alabama, believe it or not), and the old SG preoccupation with getting the guilt out of lust feels a little like fighting a war that was won a while back---like when I was a kid, maybe, around the time of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT. For me, Roth on sex works best when his ideas of it are condensed into a symbol instead of allowed to ramble on discursively---the diaphragm in GOODBYE COLUMBUS or the sudden appearance of DEEP THROAT at the end of PASTORAL say something because they capture in miniature their era. But when sex is Roth's entire subject, his basic thesis is that desire is the one thing we have to strike out against death with, and that point gets a little old, especially when it's so literally demonstrated that the hero Micky decides to masturbate over the grave of his dead lover. No, seriously, he does....
Victoria Weinstein
Gosh, I read this years ago but I remember that I loved it. It was dirty and politically incorrect and sexist and great Roth, what can I tell you?
Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran :: El ladrón de tumbas :: Recapitulation :: A Shooting Star :: Epic: Stories of Survival from the World's Highest Peaks
Patrick
This book is about death and the loss of a loved one. Sabbath's Theater mixes grief of the dead with sexuality. He talks about the morning wood as a mark of male virility which he has lost. Sabbath is so captivated by his sexual id and the destructive relationships that it causes that he is forever isolated to humanity. I love the ending in that he has to live out the life that he created and messed up. In other words, he has to live his own personal hell.

Drenka, Sabbath's married lover is an ad This book is about death and the loss of a loved one. Sabbath's Theater mixes grief of the dead with sexuality. He talks about the morning wood as a mark of male virility which he has lost. Sabbath is so captivated by his sexual id and the destructive relationships that it causes that he is forever isolated to humanity. I love the ending in that he has to live out the life that he created and messed up. In other words, he has to live his own personal hell.

Drenka, Sabbath's married lover is an adventure junky who came to the US and away from communist Yugoslavia b/c of the adventure it presented and love of money and probably took Sabbath as a lover for the same reason. Sabbath insatiable libido was matched by Drenka who thought like men in matters of sexuality who began comforting men in her inn b/c Sabbath showed her how to get in touch with her libidinous nature. Not surprisingly, her son, Matthew was also an adrenaline junky who chases traffic violators for a living. Her unorthodox arrangement with Sabbath made her appreciate rather than resent her husband's groundedness. Sabbath is correct in pointing out the absurdity of a monogamous relationship in a situation rife with marital infidelity between him and Drenka.

Sabbath's became depressed when her son Morty who was an average student but great with his hands died when his plane crashed during WWII over the Philippines and could not take care of Sabbath only his father was able to take care of him. But it was his mother that became a constant presence in his life even after she died. Sabbath liked being a puppeteer b/c a puppet was what it was whereas an actress played a role and thus there may always be an element of falseness to the person playing a role.

Does having a lover on the side make a marriage more bearable as a way to complement what your spouse will inevitably lack? Sabbath claims that Drenka would never leave her husband b/c he represents stability and financial security whereas Sabbath represents adventure especially as he encourages her to explore her sexuality with other men.
Drenka claims that as much as she needs Sabbath to make her marriage bearable, it is also her marriage that makes Sabbath want her. Unlike Drenka who told him stories about her many lovers, Sabbath told her fictitious stories about his lovers since Drenka was the only one who was still attractive to him. For Sabbath, Drenka promising monogamy to him made her less desirable b/c it was the illicitness and crudeness of her actions that excited him. So Sabbath made a deal with Drenka that for him to be monogamous with her, he had to give a BJ to her husband. In this way, Sabbath trumps her monogamy with his version of monogamy for her.

Sabbath use to get a sexual thrill hearing Drenka's animalistic side sniffing out guys who were equally animalistic. Drenka gets a thrill in having sex almost getting caught in public. Although she felt sexually aroused by fucking 3 or 4 different men in the same day, she felt uncomfortably confused to whom she belonged to and did not like that aspect of not being "owned" by someone. Some women just love sex and have a high libido like men just as Drenka has a high libido.

But now that Drenka is dead, Sabbath is jealous that Drenka had so much fun with her multiple lovers. Drenka loved to talk about the specifics with her many lovers with Sabbath. Now that she was gone, he wanted to marry her and keep her to himself. Drenka's husband the cuckold Balich praised his wife's pleasantness and flexibility while he was strict made them well suited to running an inn.

Christa blames Sabbath for exploiting her for Sabbath and Drenka's sexual games. Sabbath first met Christa on the street by the side of the road where she was dressed in a college costume party. He liked that she was unsentimental. Christa says that American's are fake nice and she tells him about her experience in NYC club scene.

According to Sabbath, the key to seduction is persistence. Sabbath looks to sex as his sole goal in life so he gets what his after b/c he is dogged in his pursuit. He talked until he made a connection with Christa. Sabbath begins to explain Drenka's 1st lesbian experience with Christa and how she loved Christa's touch.

Sabbath loves the inconsistency that Drenka possessed in that though she was sexually uninhibited she was proud of her law-abiding son.

Earlier in life, Sabbath took his required education of reading and math to the education of experiencing life by sailing around the world and visiting whorehouses for sex.

Sabbath has a complicated relationship with his wife Roseanna that started to disintegrate the moment they differed in their vision of family life. Whereas Roseanna wanted children, Sabbath did not. While Roseanna represented the innocence in the puppets she lovingly made for Sabbath, Sabbath thought that puppets were their for his control and manipulation. Thus, Roseanna and the puppets she makes represents the innocence of man, Sabbath's puppets represents men with their experience and corrupted form.

With the disintegration of their partnership, Roseanna turned to booze while Sabbath turned to Drenka. Roseanna was addicted to Sabbath's domineering presence b/c that was how her father was to her while Sabbath stayed with Roseanna b/c of her money. Sabbath also liked Roseanna drunk so he could blame someone for his misfortune.

Sabbath met Nikki while doing a street show on his finger puppetry while the virginal Nikki was on her own for the first time in their lives.

Sabbath's first wife Nikki was transformed from an incompetent person when it came to the unpleasantness of life to totally competent when performing on stage as an actress. When Nikki's mother died, Nikki had an unusual attachment to her dead mother. She simply would not let go.

While he fooled himself into thinking that he was going to NYC to see his recent friend who committed suicide, he was really after his first wife Nikki. B/c of his recent loss of Drenka, on top of his wife and his livelihood, Sabbath decided to commit suicide himself. For him suicide was a way to end his life without a sense of purpose. Sabbath was so self-centered that he did not care about what was going on around him as long as he had Drenka to entertain him. Although he did not watch the news b/c he was still searching for Nikki, he continued looking for her long after her disappearance. It was her stage performance that held them together. She was more fully able to inhabit a character than herself. Sabbath loved her complexity though he continued to cheat on her with other women.

It seems that Nikki was Sabbath's most loving and complex wife who he had the most fun with role playing in bed while Roseanna was reluctant in her ability to have an orgasm to which Sabbath played an only incidental part. While Drenka was the orgasmthon which you only had to touch to get a response. It turns out that Nikki got herself a new lover according to N. Katis neighbor and he mourned her abandonment of him. Apparently at his period of his life, Sabbath was sleeping with Roseanna while married to Nikki. Nikki could only face reality on stage otherwise reality and fantasy intermingled.
Sabbath continues to look for Nikki but bumps into Norman who appears more magnanimous as he became more successful in the theater world. Both Norman and Lincoln were impressed by the adventuresome chutzpah and lover of life that Sabbath possessed. He suffered an artist suffering without the usual reward of fame. Sabbath paradoxically felt the more he told his failed life story the more it felt false to him.

Drenka's death made him go into a depression of his failures from his sense of being a husband to both Roseanna and Nikki to his mother catatonic depression to his brothers death. From his bad experiences, he learned that the future was hopeless and it was better to have no expectation rather than dashed expectations. He let go of control of his life b/c it seems that it does not go where he wants it to go and saw no meaning in his life. He no longer had a reason to live. In his depression, Sabbath wonders whether people really know each other or do they simply understand the act du jour. In his depression, the only thing that keeps him going is sexuality by rummaging through Norman's daughter's undergarments as sex is the primal force that keeps life on earth continuing.

I like the quote "the law of living is fluctuation. For every thought a counter-thought, for every urge a counter-urge. No wonder you either go crazy and die or decide to disappear." Sabbath says the direction of his life is toward incoherence and no one ever lives the truth. He has auditory hallucinations talking to his dead mother. He now wishes his life had turned out differently.

While in NYC attending Lincoln's funeral, he stayed at their mutual friends place, Norman. He looked for Deborah's selfie porn stash and when the Hispanic maid caught him, he began reminiscing on his younger days with sailing and whoring. Instead of dirty pics of Deborah, he found dirty pics of Michelle, Norman's wife.

Sabbath paints NYC in the 90's as a corrupt place and where humanity's decay is showcased and presented for all the world to see. In keeping with the Bedlam that was NYC in the 90's, Sabbath now wants to die. Sabbath begins to think back at his life with Nicki and hallucinate of what might have happened to her.

Despite his desire to die, he fights a beggar who holds him up prompting him to think his merely faking his desire to die. He now is where he started a street performer as a beggar which Sabbath thought was poetic justice on his part. He was a professor who was kicked out of the college that he was teaching at due to a kid named Kathy Goolsbee. They had phone sex and Kathy taped it just as Sabbath taped him and his students and kept a record of it. He had a total of 33 tapes from 7 girls with Polaroid pictures of 5 of them. Sabbath think all "innocent" young women are secret perverts that a man like him just has to tease out to expose their true nature. Sabbath thinks what attracts women to phone sex with him is the transgressive nature of the act to be wanted and hunted by a much older man combined with the safety of using their imagination to fulfill their own sexual fantasy.

When Roseanna heard the dirty conversation between her husband and Kathy, she got drunk and tried to commit suicide by lying on the road. Sabbath then committed her to a private psych hospital for rehab.

Roth makes a strong albeit misogynistic case for sexually harassing women who are your juniors b/c it is expected by men to do it since the dawn of time as Kathy repeats over and over that she is a grown woman and has a right to give Sabbath a BJ no matter that he is 45 yrs his senior and her professor to boot. But Sabbath turns her down b/c he thinks of his wife crying when he placed her in the mental hospital for alcoholic rehab. Sabbath then tries to persuade Kathy that he murdered his first wife Nikki so he could bring her home without a fight. Kathy was so scared that she jumped out of Sabbath's car.

Roth does an excellent impression of a neurotic Sabbath in equating the Japanese headmistress to her country men who raped and pillage their way across Asia during WWII.

Roseanna's father was needy of his daughter's love. Roseanna blames her father for her issues, Sabbath was only a stand-in for her daddy issues. Her father was drunk and a fornicator of their housekeepers. He was also extremely bossy toward everyone. When he was drunk, he sexually abused her. No wonder Roseanna is attracted to the misogynistic Sabbath because her father was the same. I thought Sabbath's writing back pretending to be Roseanna's father was hilarious! So, she left for her mother whom she adored. Roseanna says that people come to their place b/c they want quiet but get instead internal noise.

While visiting the mental institute, Sabbath encounters a man who thinks ideological purity is the curse of the 20th century and what messes the life of people. Sabbath goes into a diatribe of the uncompromising vileness of the Hebrew God which is similar to the Muslim God. Sabbath meets Madeline a slouching pretty woman who is in the mental hospital b/c she drinks and tries to commit suicide on a regular basis. Madeline says the answer to all problems in the psych ward is incest or Prozac. She even says that psychiatric journals believe that happiness is an illness. Sabbath seems attracted to damaged women even someone as pretty as Madeline. Madeline wisely chose to continue her treatment rather than having sex and boozing it up with Sabbath. After being rejected by both Madeline and the fearful but aversionless Drenka, he jacked off to the face of Madeline with the wise thoughts.

Whereas for Roseanna her defining moment was when her father molested her, she left him to be with her mother, then her father committed suicide, for Sabbath, it was when his brother died and his family fell apart. He idolized his older brother and became Morty via the sports that he chose. I like how Roth uses King Lear to quote Sabbath as a foolish man who is crazed by hoping that Nikki was alive through the interaction with a girl who he believed was her daughter and indirectly his too.

While having dinner with Norman and Michelle, Sabbath realized that their marriage was falling apart b/c Michelle was at an age where her life was going downhill from her looks to death fast approaching. Michelle came from a family of dentistry and was forced to become a dentist herself. She took on the mantle and dedicated her life to dentistry. While Sabbath tells of the story of his sexual revelry, he was scheming to try to bed Michelle, his good friend's wife.

Whereas Norman was son of privileged parents, Sabbath was the son of working class family. During dinner, Norman wanted Sabbath to tell the story of how he landed in jail. So, Sabbath tells about his puppet trick to undress a girl in public and play with her tits that landed him in jail. Michelle said that Deborah would have defended Sabbath the way the girl whose breast he played with defended her. When his offense went to trial, Sabbath wanted the ACLU to represent him in a case of freedom of expression vs police law and order defense. The girl, Helen Trumball, said it was part of the game of street art in which the people get to participate in the art form while the prosecutor is trying to show how this is sexual assault and to let this go means that any sexual assault case was going to go unheeded. The prosecutor twist the truth so that Helen feels that she is wrong for defending Sabbath.

Sabbath went off on another rant about Japanese and how he stopped looking at the news b/c he could not stand to see them succeed after they killed his brother over the Philippines. While he ruminate on the injustice of Japan's post WWII success, Michelle suddenly appeared in a kimono giving him his medicine. Sabbath tells Michelle that Norman likes him only b/c every self-respecting liberal millionaire wants to have street creds by knowing someone who is disreputable. Because of his pure insistent carnal id, Sabbath got Michelle to promise to have an affair with him Saturday, four days hence. Sabbath is able to get women to his bed b/c he puts out an insistent masculine sexual vibe that connects with women's most animalistic core.

Until of course, Sabbath messes it up when he forgot to retreive the bag of crack in his jacket and Debby's underwear in his pants pocket before giving them to Michelle to take to the cleaners. So Norman, an upstanding member of the the world, had to kick him out for hitting on his wife. His mind is so warped that he does not see what is wrong with taking the panties of his host daughter and jacking off into them, bringing a bag of crack into their home, and seducing his host wife. He thinks what really repulsed Michelle was the beggars cup that he has. While Sabbath realizes danger is forever present and thus he would rather pursue it rather than be pursued by it, Norman realizing danger is out there takes one day at a time and deal with danger as it appears. So whereas Sabbath is a thrill seeker, Norman is a crisis manager.

Being in the cemetery, Sabbath feels he is where he is suppose to be. He got excited looking at plot of lands to which he was going to be buried. At this point, he was seriously considering committing suicide. He is planning his own burial. Sabbath reminisces how things were like when he was younger looking up to his brother Morty. He has a matter of fact negative view about himself.

Mickey visits his 100 yrs old uncle, Fish, to reminisce about the old days which makes him happy since talking too him makes him feel that his family are all alive again. But like Mickey, Fish is lonely when his wife died. While Mickey wants to die b/c he does not have to, Fish does not want to die b/c he has to soon.

Mickey reads his brothers letters and goes through his things one last time. Having Morty's things made Sabbath pause in committing suicide. B/c he has his brothers things, Sabbath decided to go back to Roseanna and try to work things out with her. Sabbath wonders what it would be like fucking his wife and imagines her masturbating. Sabbath thinks the clitorus is proof that God exists b/c it provides women with pleasure without a purpose other than to please the woman.

Sabbath allowed Drenka to assimilate into America better b/c he was her American boyfriend. Sabbath made Drenka American. Drenka's sexual vitality was draining out of her b/c of cancer and only morphine dulled the pain enough. They were united by the excitement they felt toward their sexual transgressions. To Drenka, golden showers was about totally giving oneself over to the other and thus inspired lust toward Sabbath. When Drenka has sex she give herself entirely to the other and thus "commingles" with that person.

He imagines Roseanna and Christa as gorillas who are in communion in their worship of God which he likes to see. He went crazy and destroyed their home when he imagined Roseanna and Christa together in bed. In the end, he saw suicide as finishing touch to a joke of a life. While pissing on Drenka's grave as a final homage to her, Matthew caught him and told him to stop and told him that their mother kept a diary in which she wrote all her sexual exploits. We make mistakes b/c that is the only way to reach the end. He says that he was born to cause other people pain. He realized the reason he could not commit suicide was b/c he was destined to be murdered. But Matthew refused to kill him making him live in the hell that he made. Divine justice if ever I heard of one.

Alex Rich
In honour of Philip Roth’s recent passing, I decided to drop what I was currently reading and instead read the one book by Roth that I owned: Sabbath’s Theater. I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Mr. Roth prior to reading anything of his work. He’s a polarizing figure that’s either seen as a literary genius or a miserable, outdated, bitter, male chauvinist pig. Thankfully, I was not disappointed by Sabbath’s Theater. I managed to be entertained, awed, enthralled, horrified and di In honour of Philip Roth’s recent passing, I decided to drop what I was currently reading and instead read the one book by Roth that I owned: Sabbath’s Theater. I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Mr. Roth prior to reading anything of his work. He’s a polarizing figure that’s either seen as a literary genius or a miserable, outdated, bitter, male chauvinist pig. Thankfully, I was not disappointed by Sabbath’s Theater. I managed to be entertained, awed, enthralled, horrified and disgusted by this book and I fully intend on delving further into Philip Roth’s canon in the future!

Mickey Sabbath is an old, Jewish, arthritic, finger puppeteer whose sanity is suddenly deteriorating after his beloved and sexually devious mistress has passed away. What follows is him delving into his memories of the past, while causing moral havoc in the present. He is a sex-obsessed bastard who treats other humans like objects and is despised by all; something which is beginning to take its toll on the man!

First thing’s first: Philip Roth can write a sentence. Every line in this book is a dynamite. Albeit dynamite coated in misanthropy, bitterness, hatred and black humour. I immediately saw what all the fuss was about after the first few pages. Roth is able to keep the intensity in his prose through the whole book, which can make it an occasionally exhausting read! Being kept in the company of such a dislikeable human being can be suffocating at times but I would be lying if said it wasn’t entertaining. The treatment of women in this book is a tad troubling but in contrast to Roth’s reputation, I never got the sense that the author is condoning Sabbath’s actions.

I’m happy to say that after reading this, Philip Roth’s reputation is warranted! While the man himself was a rather troubling figure, the art that he created seems to be pretty damn excellent. I might have to read another book by him before the end of the year!
Ann
If all the world's a stage and we are merely players, Mickey Sabbath has cast himself as a libertine without equal. His obsession with sex seems nearly pathological, and initially renders him a likeable unlikeable character. Little else apparently matters to him: "He was reduced the way a sauce is reduced, boiled down by his burners, the better to concentrate his essence and be defiantly himself."

At age 64, Mickey has lost his lover of 13 years, Drenka. to cancer. Cast adrift, unemployed and liv If all the world's a stage and we are merely players, Mickey Sabbath has cast himself as a libertine without equal. His obsession with sex seems nearly pathological, and initially renders him a likeable unlikeable character. Little else apparently matters to him: "He was reduced the way a sauce is reduced, boiled down by his burners, the better to concentrate his essence and be defiantly himself."

At age 64, Mickey has lost his lover of 13 years, Drenka. to cancer. Cast adrift, unemployed and living off his wife, Mickey decides that the best choice is to end his failed life. But life persists in offering him second - and more - chances, and his morbid decision is tempered by an irrepressible wit (I was surprised by how funny Roth can be.). And Drenka is far from Mickey's first loss. When his brother Morty was 20 he was killed in WWII. Not only was Mickey devastated by the death of his adored elder brother, but their mother seemed another victim, and lived her remaining years muted by sorrow. Thus, Mickey considers life a no-win situation. Either you "Get betrayed by the fantasy of endlessness or by the fact of finitude."

I recently read that this was Roth's favorite of his novels. It's an engrossing account of a thwarted life, and also a heartbreaking meditation on death, both leavened with the saving grace of humor.
Chiara
4.5
Un romanzo duro, crudo, difficile da digerire. Morte e carnalità di intrecciano fino a toccare i limiti della depravazione umana, qui incarnata nel sessantaquattrenne Morris "Mickey" Sabbath, burattinaio, uomo dominato dai propri istinti. Oltre a ciò che Roth fa di solito, ossia scandagliare la vita del proprio protagonista (magari anche buttandoci delle critiche al sistema, alla religione e all'umanità) in questo romanzo si trova anche molto dell'autore stesso. Si passa senza criterio dalla 4.5
Un romanzo duro, crudo, difficile da digerire. Morte e carnalità di intrecciano fino a toccare i limiti della depravazione umana, qui incarnata nel sessantaquattrenne Morris "Mickey" Sabbath, burattinaio, uomo dominato dai propri istinti. Oltre a ciò che Roth fa di solito, ossia scandagliare la vita del proprio protagonista (magari anche buttandoci delle critiche al sistema, alla religione e all'umanità) in questo romanzo si trova anche molto dell'autore stesso. Si passa senza criterio dalla prima alla terza persona, dal passato al presente, senza una logica come una logica non ha il pensiero umano lasciato a se stesso. Analizziamo la personalità di Sabbath e delle tre donne più importanti di Sabbath: Nikki, Roseanna e Drenka. Ma non arriveremo mai ad una definizione precisa, ad una conclusione univoca sui fatti. Si tratta di un'opera depravata, immorale, viziosa. Si tratta di Roth, scatenato e senza freni inibitori.
Personalmente, a tratti avevo quasi la sensazione di non riuscire a finire la lettura. Certo, mi fa smosso molto, non quanto "La Macchia Umana", probabilmente, anzi certamente, sentimenti più oscuri e negativi, però ha centrato nel segno. "Il teatro di Sabbath" è un romanzo che non può lasciare indifferenti.
Ronnie

When did jacking off on an ex's grave become a thing?


For Mickey Sabbath, this novel's fearlessly degenerate, shameless, disreputable, horny, loathsome, old antihero, it's all in a day's--or night's--work, all part of the "nutty tawdriness" that is his life. In Sabbath, Roth has masterfully created a grotesque, an unrepentant Rabelaisian and representative of the reprehensible, a lazy, overweight, unemployed, sex-crazed, gluttonous, drooling buffoon who wants to "exist in the world as antagonisti

When did jacking off on an ex's grave become a thing?


For Mickey Sabbath, this novel's fearlessly degenerate, shameless, disreputable, horny, loathsome, old antihero, it's all in a day's--or night's--work, all part of the "nutty tawdriness" that is his life. In Sabbath, Roth has masterfully created a grotesque, an unrepentant Rabelaisian and representative of the reprehensible, a lazy, overweight, unemployed, sex-crazed, gluttonous, drooling buffoon who wants to "exist in the world as antagonistically as he" likes. He's alternately referred to as a "walking panegyric for obscenity" and "a fierce man," one who's "let the whole creature out." Virtually his every move is a #MeToo moment waiting to happen. He's offensive on pretty much every level and unforgettable.


I picked this up after hearing the sad news of Roth's death two days before, which might be why the parts that struck me as most successful and touching here dealt unflinchingly with matters of life and death. In the end, and in its own seedy, perverse way, it's a celebration of the former.


First line:
"Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over."
Jon Boles
“And he could not do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.”

Easily one of the greats, this giant amalgam of depravity, hilarity, tragedy and cynicism; a tome that can make one wince at its sheer hedonistic joy in taking you beyond the edge of decency, only to moments later render you breathless with laughter, and then to all too suddenly break your heart with moments bringing you to sympathy with one of the most foul creations to bestride “And he could not do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.”

Easily one of the greats, this giant amalgam of depravity, hilarity, tragedy and cynicism; a tome that can make one wince at its sheer hedonistic joy in taking you beyond the edge of decency, only to moments later render you breathless with laughter, and then to all too suddenly break your heart with moments bringing you to sympathy with one of the most foul creations to bestride the legions of fleshed-out characters, a repugnant man for whom empathy can still be felt in spite of his many arrayed warts. All of this with some of the greatest sentences penned by one of the true greats of American literature. It’s all here, the pendulum of the human condition; our penchant for debauchery and destruction of others and ourselves; the ways we grieve at what is lost; and ultimately, the way time works for and against us in our frailty and even our strength. A true juggernaut, adrift in hilarity, pathos and heart, complete with a unique character viewed through a prism with a perspective veering between understanding and mocking his pathetically callous solipsism, but most importantly, without judging or acquitting him along the way. Highly recommended.
Juan
As a matching bookend to Portnoy's Complaint, this award-winning novel was a big disappointment. It's ponderous and solemn in its descriptions of Sabbath's filthy, gratuitous adventures into abjection. Brimming with self-importance, it is written as if we were, at some point, going to identify the bitter old lecher who suddenly realizes his life lacks any meaning. Whatever was in Portnoy that was funny and light-hearted is gone from Sabbath's Theater. It's highly bathetic, still, but lacking in As a matching bookend to Portnoy's Complaint, this award-winning novel was a big disappointment. It's ponderous and solemn in its descriptions of Sabbath's filthy, gratuitous adventures into abjection. Brimming with self-importance, it is written as if we were, at some point, going to identify the bitter old lecher who suddenly realizes his life lacks any meaning. Whatever was in Portnoy that was funny and light-hearted is gone from Sabbath's Theater. It's highly bathetic, still, but lacking in any kind of humor. A joke, yes, but a nasty unfunny joke. An anti-hero no one wants to root for, and from which we all, himself included, are in a hurry to get away from. This is, clearly, a miscalculation on Roth's part, the material would have worked wonderfully as humorous material, as it does, for example in Amis' One Fat Englishman.
Craig T
This is like an unofficial sequel to Portnoy’s Complaint - and while in the earlier novel, Portnoy is young and you think he might eventually grow out of the obsessive masturbating and chasing tail - he is after all a good Jewish boy at heart - in this sort-of-sequel we learn that he has actually grown INTO it, has become even more depraved. Perhaps aping another of Roth’s work, ‘The Breast’ Mickey Sabbath has pretty much turned into a PENIS, everything he is and everything he does is defined by This is like an unofficial sequel to Portnoy’s Complaint - and while in the earlier novel, Portnoy is young and you think he might eventually grow out of the obsessive masturbating and chasing tail - he is after all a good Jewish boy at heart - in this sort-of-sequel we learn that he has actually grown INTO it, has become even more depraved. Perhaps aping another of Roth’s work, ‘The Breast’ Mickey Sabbath has pretty much turned into a PENIS, everything he is and everything he does is defined by his dick.
It’s not a pretty read, often you feel grubby and if nothing else Roth takes it further than you believe he would dare. He is a genuinely great writer, of course, and as awful as it all is, you often admire the skill and artistry of it. But his writing so often soared and this tawdry story does his reputation little good.
Kasurls
To say that Mickey Sabbath is an unsavory character is an understatement and many times during the process of reading this book I felt I would have to separate from him and try again later. Sabbath's saving grace is that he has the writing of Philip Roth to express himself. Another character in the book asked, "why DO you behave this way? Primal emotions and indecent language and orderly complex sentences"? She continues by saying, "Unbridled excess knows no limit in you, but I suffer from a sev To say that Mickey Sabbath is an unsavory character is an understatement and many times during the process of reading this book I felt I would have to separate from him and try again later. Sabbath's saving grace is that he has the writing of Philip Roth to express himself. Another character in the book asked, "why DO you behave this way? Primal emotions and indecent language and orderly complex sentences"? She continues by saying, "Unbridled excess knows no limit in you, but I suffer from a severe predilection not to ruin my life".This novel can be repulsive, and comic, and beautiful and somewhere at the end of the book Roth takes something that is repulsive and makes it beautiful, what talent!
Jesse Kraai
This is the first really bad book that I read to the end in a long while. It was a determined effort, demanding much fortitude and perseverence. I finished cuz a) I've had to put down several other books on the best of cocklit lists, and I couldn't take another defeat b) people been talking at me for years about Roth 3) my next attempt at cocklit will be Klam's Who is Rich, and that book seems to have a similar plot.

This book is way too long, we get loads of characters and events that do not dri This is the first really bad book that I read to the end in a long while. It was a determined effort, demanding much fortitude and perseverence. I finished cuz a) I've had to put down several other books on the best of cocklit lists, and I couldn't take another defeat b) people been talking at me for years about Roth 3) my next attempt at cocklit will be Klam's Who is Rich, and that book seems to have a similar plot.

This book is way too long, we get loads of characters and events that do not drive the plot forward. And the driver is such a moaning bore: 'it's all about my mom'. And dude, if yer gonna write about sex what's with all the latinate vocab?

Lessons: cocklit is actually very hard to write, it's gotta be fresh. This book is an example of stale.
Stewart
I just read another user’s terrific review of this *remarkable* book. Jennifer writes:
“A part of me thinks that anyone capable of writing this is probably a vile human being.”

I think it is certain.

Roth pulls out all the stops. Digs deep to magnify, promote, celebrate his most misogynistic, antisocial, perverted instincts.

First time I have read a book and felt a desire to murder the protagonist. Quite an accomplishment.
Benjamin
The kind of novel one would have hoped Philip Roth had left behind in the 1960s. Mickey Sabbath is an unattractive failure at life but obsessed with sex, and women clearly can't resist him (sigh). Roth tries to push buttons with some of Sabbath's sexual obsessions, but it is more annoying than effective. The book is most interesting when it moves away from woman obsession and focuses on Sabbath's memories of his family, especially his idolised older brother, who was killed in World War II.
Theresa
This was abso-fucking-lutely the most disgusting book I've ever read, but it was also pretty genius. Mickey is certainly not the type of character I would normally read- there was almost nothing about him that was personally relatable to me- but I'm glad that I did. Roth's eloquent writing style takes something depressing and filthy and turns it into a masterpiece. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's one of my new favorites, but it definitely made an impact.
John
I couldn’t relate, I couldn’t understand the point. Had no beef with the filth, just don’t quite get while it was there at all. I like Roth with his narrative switches and the like, it’s just this one annoyed me more than entertained me. I just really wanted to love it, like I wanted to love Pastorale, but didn’t love either.
Richard Capogrosso
Had never read Philip Roth before for some reason, so decided to try this out. He's obviously an amazing writer. The subject matter is really out there, an aging, angry puppeteer on some kind of life odyssey, but it is very well written and does hold your interest as to what this guy is going to do next. I'll likely read another by him at some point, but need a break after that one.
David K
There is always so much in a Philip Roth novel. There is lust, sex, more sex, longing, love, aging, hate, anti-Semitism, politics, human theater, drama, etc. etc. The writing is dense and sometimes challenging but well worth the reading. This was not my favorite P. R. book, but together all of his books are my favorites. They are all must reads.
Harald
That Sabbat's Theater concerns a main character addicted to sex should not come as a surprise to readers of Philip Roth. There's little to redeem Mickey Sabbath from his role as a scumbag, yet enough to carry the reader to the end of the 450 pages long book. Actually, some of the female characters are more attractively drawn than the male main character.
Greg
Sabbath is larger than life and definitely repellent at times, but as the book went on I found it harder and harder to put down. Before reading this I thought perhaps I was done with Roth, tired of his style even while recognizing what a huge talent he was. The sheer energy of the writing and exuberance of voice and thought is astounding. On to his American trilogy I go.
Kevin
Profane and profound are not the same thing. Giving it a second star for Cousin Fish and the final scene with Drenka in the hospital. Both scenes don't happen until the final 50 pages. Giving it a third star because I can tell Roth really thought he wrote a good book.
Guillaume Frasca
Une grande fresque intime de Michel Sabbath, dont la perversité sexuelle cache une profonde mélancolie. On touche du doigt le fil continu entre la pulsion sexuelle et le caractère inéluctable de la mort. Drôle et bouleversant, dans tous les sens du terme.
Liz
I only read 5% of this book, so rating it really isn’t fair, but... The writing was phenomenal, but I couldn’t spend another minute with Mickey Sabbath. I would avoid him in real life, so why let him into my head during my precious reading time?
Stefanie
This was a difficult read. The writing is, as expected, brilliant. But it is impossible to like Mickey Sabbath and I do need to like someone in a novel. All the characters are so flawed and self-centered. This is purportedly Roth's favorite of all his novels.
Phil Overeem
What a wild, original, audacious, confounding, deep and depraved ride! The only National Book Award Winner I’ve ever read where, halfway through, I couldn’t BELIEVE it had won, and after having finished, I had no doubt why. It’s a 4.5 if I could do hedges, which Mickey Sabbath would despise.
Maria
Das Buch ist sehr detailverliebt, langsam dahinplätschernd und wenig spannend.
Jedoch zum Teil intelligent geschrieben und die Sprache ist wortgewandt und detailreich.
Jedoch zu zäh, wenig inhaltsreich. Abgebrochen nach der guten Hälfte. Werde es auch nicht weiter lesen.
Larry Khazzam
Just because Philip Roth is such an icon doesn't mean he can't have a bad day once in a while
Charlene
Just who cares? Almost stopped early-on. Persevered. Finally there was a story but could not care. Yuk.
Javier O.
Excelente, uno de mis favoritos de Philip Roth...
Barry Hughes
Quite a character is Micky sabbath..I liked his mistress drenka and her lust for lust. Not always an easy read but plenty here to digest and as others have said a second read may give you more.
Guiliane Gomes
Nossa, acabei esse livro. Me lembrou muito as histórias de Charles Bukowski.
Katie
Roth is an outstanding writer, in a league of his own. A dark and twisted story however.
Smisword
Lectura para aquellos lectores a quienes les gustan los personajes grotescos. Un Sabbath excesivamente falocéntrico al que, para mi gusto, se le da demasiada voz.
Paula
My first taste of Roth. I am craving more.
Columbia Warren
Giving credit where it's due, this is a well-written book. It was pretty dreadful to read, though, and I can't say I would recommend it to anyone I know.
Hannah
After a third of the book in, the creepy macabre hilarity wore off, and all I was left with was creepy macabre writing.

Kirk
I can respect other folks' positive reviews of SABBATH's THEATER. I'm normally a big Roth fan, too---I really got a lot out of AMERICAN PASTORAL, THE HUMAN STAIN, and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. SABBATH for me just didn't do the trick, however. Part of my issue with it, I think, is that Roth hasn't really worried about form or plot in ages---his novels unfold now as dramatic monologues, episodic and without any real drive. As a result, there's a distance between the reader and the action that can make the reading a bit of a slog. It's tough enough to get through something relatively short like THE DYING ANIMAL, but when it's a big, self-consciously epic effort like SABBATH, it can be w-o-r-k. With a capital W even.

I also think it's a generational difference. For Roth and other Silent Generation writers, the idea of sex as liberation was indeed revolutionary. They were throwing off those cliched shackles of repression. Only nowadays we live in an entirely unrepressed age (even here in Alabama, believe it or not), and the old SG preoccupation with getting the guilt out of lust feels a little like fighting a war that was won a while back---like when I was a kid, maybe, around the time of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT. For me, Roth on sex works best when his ideas of it are condensed into a symbol instead of allowed to ramble on discursively---the diaphragm in GOODBYE COLUMBUS or the sudden appearance of DEEP THROAT at the end of PASTORAL say something because they capture in miniature their era. But when sex is Roth's entire subject, his basic thesis is that desire is the one thing we have to strike out against death with, and that point gets a little old, especially when it's so literally demonstrated that the hero Micky decides to masturbate over the grave of his dead lover. No, seriously, he does....
Kevin
Tough to know just what to make of this one. Themes, plot contours, even whole story elements are reminiscent of The Human Stain (the latter written in 2000, but set in the mid-nineties, when this book was written and set). However, it's a farce to that book's tragedy. Instead of tracing a man's downfall at the hands of a judgmental society in which racism and political correctness are two sides of the same poison coin--and in which writing itself stands in an awkward and uncertain relation to t Tough to know just what to make of this one. Themes, plot contours, even whole story elements are reminiscent of The Human Stain (the latter written in 2000, but set in the mid-nineties, when this book was written and set). However, it's a farce to that book's tragedy. Instead of tracing a man's downfall at the hands of a judgmental society in which racism and political correctness are two sides of the same poison coin--and in which writing itself stands in an awkward and uncertain relation to truth--we get Mickey Sabbath, draped in his dead-pilot brother's American flag and wearing that brother's yarmukle, stopped by the cops for pissing on the grave of his dead lover's grave. I had a tough time knowing what to do with the character Drenka, whose comical sexual insatiability suggests allegory; is the whole novel an allegorical rumination on sex, the baser the better, as last and only refuge from death? If so, it is unclear how to interpret the last chapter, which is mostly given over to what it seems is supposed to be a moving deathbed conversation between Drenka and Sabbath. To me, the character of Drenka, nobly fucking every man who passes through or near her and her husband's sleepy New England inn, is drawn too broadly and preposterously to elicit much deep sadness at the moment of her succumbing to cancer; and Sabbath, hell-bent on failure, is too odious to truly mourn in the moment of his complete and total crack up.

However, as usual, the prose is stunning (and, unexpectedly, seems to be in dialogue with Joyce: the passages of self-consciously pompous and absurd stream-of-consciousness writing; the colorfully drawn beggars and other characters in pre-Giuliani New York; and, most directly, the cataloguing of articles in the drawers of Debbie, the college-age daughter of Sabbath's New York friends). And there are many hilarious moments (including several set in the retreat for addicts Sabbath's second wife checks into, and Sabbath himself runs roughshod over). I know that numerous critics have called Sabbath's Theater Roth's "materpiece," and I sort of understand where they're coming from; but I'm not sure I can quite agree.
Nestormirplanells
Philip Roth es muy inteligente, y escribe muy bien. De eso no hay duda y por eso le he puesto un 4 al libro.

Mickey Sabbath... ¿quién es o qué es Mickey Sabath?, ¿un mito del anarco-liberalismo que viene a reventar todo aquello que huele a políticamente correcto? ¿Una escisión del Lobo estepario vagando por los inhóspitos parajes del individualismo crónico? Si tuviera que buscar una imagen que resumiera el transcurrir de este libro sería la de una comida que viene de ser engullida y que llega hec Philip Roth es muy inteligente, y escribe muy bien. De eso no hay duda y por eso le he puesto un 4 al libro.

Mickey Sabbath... ¿quién es o qué es Mickey Sabath?, ¿un mito del anarco-liberalismo que viene a reventar todo aquello que huele a políticamente correcto? ¿Una escisión del Lobo estepario vagando por los inhóspitos parajes del individualismo crónico? Si tuviera que buscar una imagen que resumiera el transcurrir de este libro sería la de una comida que viene de ser engullida y que llega hecha papilla al estómago, de ahí hasta ser expulsada, la mejor parte es sin duda el final, las últimas líneas de la novela, por el orificio anal, esa masa, o sustancia, va dando tumbos, por el aparato digestivo, sin un plan concreto. Y cuando digo sin un plan concreto es a eso mismo a lo que me refiero. Y bueno, cuando uno ha defecado, normalmente, se siente aliviado.

Philip Roth debió quedarse totalmente aliviado al crear deshacerse de este personaje, un personaje que no deja de descender, que no puede evitar bajar, y bajar, porque con su inteligencia desbordada, Mickey no puede, no es capaz de construir, es un sadomasoquista del dolor intelectual, cuanto mayor siente su poder, su superiodad, más la alimenta, su bajada, entrando así en una espiral adictiva que en lugar de llevarle hacia arriba, le lleva hacia abajo, hacia la obsoluta y total nada a la absoluta y total soledad.

Cuando Mickey llega al final no le queda nada, no hay para él ni tan siquiera la bala misericorde que le quitaría de en medio. Al final del libro, una gran lección: si alguien es imbécil, por favor, no cometas el error de prestarle atención, si alguien es imbécil y además lo sabe, no hay mayor condena que dejarlo solo en medio de un bosque y vivo...

Nota: la sexualidad que emana Sabbath es muy de antiguo regimen, adolece, como también le pasa a Updike (al que admiro como escritor más que Roth), de concretarse a través de personajes que nacen en épocas pretéritas. Hoy en día ya no hace falta ser un lobo estepario para tener ideas sexuales avanzadas, solo hay que fijarse en la cantidad de tiendas de juguetitos eróticos de barrio que han proliferado en los últimos años.
Mike
This book is so unremittingly filthy that it actually takes some courage to read it all the way through. So in a way, I'm giving myself five stars for sticking with it, not just awarding five stars to the author. (For what is, in fact, a tour-de-force.) I did begin to quail at about the half-way mark and have to take a kind of post-coital break, but I eventually pressed on. And boy, was it worth it. What a climax! The story clarified, themes developed, the pace improved, it got better and better This book is so unremittingly filthy that it actually takes some courage to read it all the way through. So in a way, I'm giving myself five stars for sticking with it, not just awarding five stars to the author. (For what is, in fact, a tour-de-force.) I did begin to quail at about the half-way mark and have to take a kind of post-coital break, but I eventually pressed on. And boy, was it worth it. What a climax! The story clarified, themes developed, the pace improved, it got better and better. In the end, it thoroughly repaid the effort.

This is a very uncomfortable read. The anti-hero, Mickey Sabbath, is simply one of the vilest characters of modern fiction, and imagined from the inside, as it were, quite superbly. We've all met a Mickey Sabbath, but never like this: in the flesh. And how. He is quite believable. In fact he reminds me strongly of a distant relative of mine. However it takes some leap of the imagination to see him, for example, masturbating over the grave of his dead mistress, propositioning his best friend's wife in the hallway, or stealing from his hundred-year-old cousin. But what is so striking is that although Sabbath is a monster, after a while one has to warm to a part of him - the small, solid streak in him that might in another character be considered admirable, the unconventional, rebellious, anti-social being determined to be his own man. Grotesque, immoral, disgusting, but credible, thought-provoking, and what a commentary on the human condition. Complex, disturbing, entertaining, weird.

Read this with some detachment, gloss over the dirty bits, apparent casual sexism and gratuitous porn, and be prepared for a very interesting ride.
Forrest
i was tricked into reading this, the most depressing book i've ever read - much worse than anything by Dostoevsky (and just as long). And by tricked i mean i somehow added it to my reading list and then was grossly misled about how it would make me feel. And by grossly misled i mean i thought it was going be about "an unproductive, out-of-work, former puppeteer with a strong affinity for whores, adultery, and the casual sexual encounter," which it was, but it also painfully illustrated King Solo i was tricked into reading this, the most depressing book i've ever read - much worse than anything by Dostoevsky (and just as long). And by tricked i mean i somehow added it to my reading list and then was grossly misled about how it would make me feel. And by grossly misled i mean i thought it was going be about "an unproductive, out-of-work, former puppeteer with a strong affinity for whores, adultery, and the casual sexual encounter," which it was, but it also painfully illustrated King Solomon's ecclesiastical lament - vanity, all is vanity. No one wants to hear that! Much less read about it for 451 pages! It was agonizing seeing a Solomon-esque figure (minus the crown, children, wisdom and self-awareness - so, disgusting with no redeeming qualities - so, horribly human) wallow in the reality that his life is meaningless.

But i had to finish it. I had to renew it from the library - can you imagine?!?! I couldn't finish it in the allotted 3 week time period - it was that painfully tragic. It took me weeks and weeks to fully absorb and digest the horror, the absolute blackness, of that book. And now all of that honesty is seared into my brain. What are authors who publish truth thinking? Don't they have any sense of decency or sense of propriety? Sure, Roth tried to mask the whole thing with shocking sexual descriptions and vulgarity - but any decent reader could see right through that (although, evidently, judging by the comments some readers couldn't) to the heart of darkness, that pitch black horror that was the substance of the book.

i should keep to Christian literature - it's much more palatable. reading slaughterhouse-five now (although it's not Christian literature) - so far, a much lighter read.
Myles
(4.5/5.0)

Mickey Sabbath is the creepiest, least sympathetic character I've ever encountered. (I imagine him looking something like Al Goldstein: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/199vy... .) He picks the jewelry off his mother-in-law's corpse, he defiles the image of the daughter of his former business partner in her pink tile bathroom, he's mistaken for a homeless person on the subway and given handouts, he delights in his prejudices, he violates the grave of his Croatian lover (on that one he's (4.5/5.0)

Mickey Sabbath is the creepiest, least sympathetic character I've ever encountered. (I imagine him looking something like Al Goldstein: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/199vy... .) He picks the jewelry off his mother-in-law's corpse, he defiles the image of the daughter of his former business partner in her pink tile bathroom, he's mistaken for a homeless person on the subway and given handouts, he delights in his prejudices, he violates the grave of his Croatian lover (on that one he's not alone), he has phone sex with the vulnerable girls in his puppetry workshop and when one of them reports him to the dean– whose name sounds remarkably like to Michiko Kakutani– he threatens the girl with lies about his past, endorsing the widely held rumor that he murdered his first wife. And he accomplishes all of this with an awareness that renders his behavior all the more unpardonable.

Given the lurid details and unforgettable scenes, I should have enjoyed Sabbath's Theater more than I did. But by Roth's standards, this is a dense read, hard to penetrate and even harder to love; like in his best books, the narration is haunted by certain memories, which reappear and receive embellishments as they're earned–– mysteries go unsolved for hundreds of pages, and usually, they receive satisfying resolutions; still, the book wanders into territory that gets old fast. Sex permeates, and the descriptions are florid and revolting at first, but ultimately, they numb the reader, and I doubt that's Roth's aim.

There's also a lot of gimmicky stuff that I prefer to think are unworthy of the author. Though, the thirty page phone sex transcript is fun in a low brow, To Catch a Predator kind of way.
T.P. Williams
Entertaining novel. Protagonist, Mickey Sabbath one of the most unappealing characters I have ever read about. He badly mistreats women, betrays (or tries to) friends, even desecrates graves. Some of his actions are so over the top (breaking in on his estranged wife and her girlfriend - who happens to be a former lover of his - while they are watching a television show about gorillas) they are laugh out loud funny. Some of Sabbath's sexual preferences are, to be charitable, unusual, and Roth's d Entertaining novel. Protagonist, Mickey Sabbath one of the most unappealing characters I have ever read about. He badly mistreats women, betrays (or tries to) friends, even desecrates graves. Some of his actions are so over the top (breaking in on his estranged wife and her girlfriend - who happens to be a former lover of his - while they are watching a television show about gorillas) they are laugh out loud funny. Some of Sabbath's sexual preferences are, to be charitable, unusual, and Roth's depiction of them is at times quasi-pornographic. I liked the way he kept circling around certain themes and certain episodes in Sabbath's past, like his older brother, and his death in the war, his first "wife," etc. Trying to visualize the 60ish, bearded, overweight Sabbath, donning a stars and strips yarmulka which belonged to his brother, with an American flag wrapped around him for warmth, while he urinates in a very public place, was, to say the least, a challenge for my imagination. That being said, Sabbath is not a likable or sympathetic figure, for all the reverses he faced in life, and as he kept contemplating suicide (and chickening out), I wanted to yell out, "Just do it, Mickey. Get it over with, already!" and after feeling a little ashamed at having such thoughts, realized that they were funny, also, and probably the reaction that Roth wanted from the reader. Novel dragged a bit in some sections, but otherwise very enjoyable.
Justin
Having read "Portnoy's Complaint" I was fully aware of how far Roth is willing to go to make a point. Despite this I found the first 150 pages of "Sabbath's Theater" quite hard going. I'm not easily shocked or offended so it wasn't the content that bothered me, instead I felt that Roth was trying to provoke the reader and this provocation was so overt that I couldn't really settle into the book. I was dragged through by the quality of the writing, which is remarkable, and happily the clouds bega Having read "Portnoy's Complaint" I was fully aware of how far Roth is willing to go to make a point. Despite this I found the first 150 pages of "Sabbath's Theater" quite hard going. I'm not easily shocked or offended so it wasn't the content that bothered me, instead I felt that Roth was trying to provoke the reader and this provocation was so overt that I couldn't really settle into the book. I was dragged through by the quality of the writing, which is remarkable, and happily the clouds began to part and I was able to enjoy the novel. Roth doesn't really provide a payoff until the last 50 pages so I can understand why a reader may not make it that far, but it is worth persevering through as there is more emotion and thought within the pages than may first appear. Sabbath is a sexually free individual and so readers with concerns about strong sexual content will struggle with the bulk of the book, further to this I thought that some of Sabbath's behaviour was perverted and objectionable (although not enough to stop me reading) and not merely "mischievous", as Roth himself has put it. I'm giving it five stars because of the extraordinary depth of the novel but, caveat emptor, you have to push on through to the end to experience the full effect. It is a book to be taken seriously, despite its odd humour, especially if you are over 60. I did at times think that I was 30 years too young to "get it".
Richard
When I an entrenched in a Philip Roth book, I have simple been lured out of all objectivity and brought into an almost completely visceral state. This becomes most obvious when I tell others about the book I'm currently reading and find myself offering description that I might be otherwise reluctant to offer in even impolite company, for Roth touches on the absolute depths of depravity. While I wouldn't go anywhere as far as one of the blurbs on this book about Mickey Sabbath being a representat When I an entrenched in a Philip Roth book, I have simple been lured out of all objectivity and brought into an almost completely visceral state. This becomes most obvious when I tell others about the book I'm currently reading and find myself offering description that I might be otherwise reluctant to offer in even impolite company, for Roth touches on the absolute depths of depravity. While I wouldn't go anywhere as far as one of the blurbs on this book about Mickey Sabbath being a representative of humanity or any of the other spirals of language one tends to find critics roiling themselves into, I would find Mickey Sabbath quite the pinnacle of isolation, isolation expressed of course through an irrepressible lust, the need to basically stick his penis into anything warm (and I am barely exaggerating here). Roth's method becomes a little apparent here - character reaches the deepest level of his depravity and so escapes his little world (oftentimes due to a death) and as a result gets to recount the deeds of his life. But this time, the form works quite well. My keen eye to read softened for a little while at the 350-page mark, but since Roth has such a talent for endings, rather than fade-outs, I went with full steam back up through the lasst syllable. This is the kind of stuff that I doubt could be handled by anysingleotherelse today.
Jonathan
Wow. This book reminded me of the meaning of the term "anal-retentive," a figure of speech which always puzzled me by its frequent, casual use. Didn't anyone else see the winking anus at the center of the psychological label? I had a passing acquaintance with Freudian stages and their names, but I couldn't link the "anal-retentive" title clearly with the uptight personality to which it's commonly assigned.

As I now understand it, the anal type of person has never lost an infantile obsession with Wow. This book reminded me of the meaning of the term "anal-retentive," a figure of speech which always puzzled me by its frequent, casual use. Didn't anyone else see the winking anus at the center of the psychological label? I had a passing acquaintance with Freudian stages and their names, but I couldn't link the "anal-retentive" title clearly with the uptight personality to which it's commonly assigned.

As I now understand it, the anal type of person has never lost an infantile obsession with, and horror of, the waste produced by the human body. An overriding desire for cleanliness and order takes command of the person. On the deepest psychological level, this avoidance of mess and filth stems from a denial of death's reality amid life. The harder one strives to avoid facing death, the greater the person's mental discord.

In Sabbath's Theatre, Roth seems obsessed with shattering reality for an anal-retentive society, rubbing the reader's nose in a pile of excrement and various other bodily fluids. I really enjoyed some parts of this novel. But then, before you realize, something like this happens: a touching deathbed scene transforms into a discussion about the pleasures of drinking a lover's urine. "Look! Look at this filth we try to hide. What folly!" the author seems to say. Go, Roth, go.
Joe
After reading American Pastoral I looked forward to my next Philip Roth book. This one seemed similarly acclaimed so I chose it. I would say I'm disappointed. Much of the book I'd say is simply pornography. Never before have I read the word "cunt" in such density. The story centers on the life of a sex-crazed former puppeteer named Sabbath and how his obsessions with certain women and the early WWII death of his brother shape his crazy actions. There were indeed moments I found genuinely funny. After reading American Pastoral I looked forward to my next Philip Roth book. This one seemed similarly acclaimed so I chose it. I would say I'm disappointed. Much of the book I'd say is simply pornography. Never before have I read the word "cunt" in such density. The story centers on the life of a sex-crazed former puppeteer named Sabbath and how his obsessions with certain women and the early WWII death of his brother shape his crazy actions. There were indeed moments I found genuinely funny. I would not say they are few, but perhaps far between. For the first hundred or so pages I was still running on American Pastoral fumes, hoping the book would elevate to that level at some point. While it did get a little better as the book went on, I never connected with Sabbath the same way I did with Swede, the protagonist of American Pastoral. Now that I write this, I realize that American Pastoral and Sabbath's Theater are two different versions of the same story: a death brings about the unraveling of the protagonist's psyche. However, Sabbath's Theater was filled with 50-100 pages too much unnecessary smut. Considering the book's length, I wouldn't read it unless you truly crave dark sex comedy.
.
NB: Before I begin this review, let me provide the reader with a brief forewarning about the flagrant material encased within the text, for this is not your average romance novel.

Incendiary in style and explosive in content, Sabbath's Theatre is Philip Roth's perverse portrait of a puppeteer. Like all the best opening sentences, Sabbath's Theatre is disarmingly direct about its subject matter: 'Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over.' On the receiving end of this improbable ultima NB: Before I begin this review, let me provide the reader with a brief forewarning about the flagrant material encased within the text, for this is not your average romance novel.

Incendiary in style and explosive in content, Sabbath's Theatre is Philip Roth's perverse portrait of a puppeteer. Like all the best opening sentences, Sabbath's Theatre is disarmingly direct about its subject matter: 'Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over.' On the receiving end of this improbable ultimatum is Mickey Sabbath: Roth's retired puppeteer, our eponymous anti-hero, and a 60 something-year old widower on an irreversible path to self-destruction. His interlocutor? The delightful Drenka; the soon-to-be-deceased wife who the reader becomes attuned to through the past and (present) sexual exploits of its narrator. What's so great about this first sentence you ask? Well, its alarming improbability foregrounds the central problem of the text: Sabbath's sex-obsession. Following the death of Drenka - his one true love - Sabbath's addiction unfurls a long yarn of debauchery, sexual conquest and its consequences. The consequences of which I'll leave to its unfamiliar reader.
Josh
Being insane, it's always nice to see the options before me. Mickey Sabbath is a man driven as close to the edge as he can come by loss. We meet all the people he has lost, mostly women he loved at one point. He tries to get to the point of suicide but ultimately is too rational. The way Roth smacks you in the face with grief out of nowhere--I just can't think of an author with greater ability in this regard. The book is endlessly hysterical, usually making you feel awkward and guilty because yo Being insane, it's always nice to see the options before me. Mickey Sabbath is a man driven as close to the edge as he can come by loss. We meet all the people he has lost, mostly women he loved at one point. He tries to get to the point of suicide but ultimately is too rational. The way Roth smacks you in the face with grief out of nowhere--I just can't think of an author with greater ability in this regard. The book is endlessly hysterical, usually making you feel awkward and guilty because you're simultaneously moved to a true communion with mourning. His writing is simple and it doesn't sparkle but its cumulative effect resonates. I read one third of this book earlier this year and was interrupted by life. I returned to it because a week hadn't gone by where I didn't think of the characters I'd cursorily encountered. Roth understand that every dimension of life is contained within sex and that there is no human act that can tell and create more in a person. I loved this book like no other I've read. It's definitely one of the three best books I've ever read. It is the art I want to build in other mediums. Its moments of erotic desperation and fulfillment are so base and unapologetic that they become that real kind of art-truth.
Bookaholic
Reread in 2010 in a challenge with my Dad.

Our October challenge book. A re-read for both of us.

GirlReaction: This is my all-time favorite Philip Roth book. So dark and yet so funny. But sadly I was way too swamped with school and couldn’t finish. I’ll re-read it this summer maybe. Hopefully.

DadReaction: Hilarious. This may be the funniest book i’ve ever read. I didn’t remember how sad it was–it’s savagely funny but there’s also a devastating sense of loss, raving self destruction and anger. Hi Reread in 2010 in a challenge with my Dad.

Our October challenge book. A re-read for both of us.

GirlReaction: This is my all-time favorite Philip Roth book. So dark and yet so funny. But sadly I was way too swamped with school and couldn’t finish. I’ll re-read it this summer maybe. Hopefully.

DadReaction: Hilarious. This may be the funniest book i’ve ever read. I didn’t remember how sad it was–it’s savagely funny but there’s also a devastating sense of loss, raving self destruction and anger. His unreasonableness was just hilarious and unstoppable, in your face, even when people are trying to help him. A real exercise in self sabotage–anything even remotely good he will end up ruining. He’s also so self-aborbed that he defines people solely by how they relate to them and is always confused by their other attributes. The end is a real punch.

This books gets loose from some of the usual Roth tightness: a hymn to excess. Not just in the 60s “good excess” type way, but ruminating on how horrible excess can be when you’re trashing everything around you. You do forget the edge the book has–how harsh it is, even in its humor.
Daniel Becker
I've read a fair amount of Roth, and this was the most difficult. I decided to give it a try after a number of reviewers said it was his best in some online article. It's typical in that that singular voice worms into your head and you want to hear what he has to say. But unfortunately that voice isn't the greatest company this time around, and it's not until you realize you're going deep into the worst of the male psyche and you might as well enjoy the ride that the book becomes enjoyable. If y I've read a fair amount of Roth, and this was the most difficult. I decided to give it a try after a number of reviewers said it was his best in some online article. It's typical in that that singular voice worms into your head and you want to hear what he has to say. But unfortunately that voice isn't the greatest company this time around, and it's not until you realize you're going deep into the worst of the male psyche and you might as well enjoy the ride that the book becomes enjoyable. If you get to the obituary Mickey writes for himself in his head about a third of the way through, you'll be hooked not least because that mock obituary may be one of the best pieces of comic writing (and hard-earned) you'll ever read. While reading this book, I found myself at a stop sign on a suburban street on a glorious summer day thinking "look at the beauty of that red stop sign in contrast to the deep green of full summer all around; I wonder why humans have consciousness and appreciation of beauty since we're just going to die like any other animal." And then I thought "Roth is in my head."
Newton
This is Philip Roth's most overtly, and disgustingly, sexual novel since Portnoy's Complaint; actually, I would say it goes beyond Portnoy for how graphically disgusting it can be. Like Portnoy, however, there is a great deal more than just seething sexuality in this rather awesome portrait of a man buried in self-loathing. Mickey Sabbath, the protagonist, is clearly brilliant, an artistic soul which, for reasons we gather steadily through the novel, has become perverted in every sense of the wo This is Philip Roth's most overtly, and disgustingly, sexual novel since Portnoy's Complaint; actually, I would say it goes beyond Portnoy for how graphically disgusting it can be. Like Portnoy, however, there is a great deal more than just seething sexuality in this rather awesome portrait of a man buried in self-loathing. Mickey Sabbath, the protagonist, is clearly brilliant, an artistic soul which, for reasons we gather steadily through the novel, has become perverted in every sense of the word. I had a difficult time getting into this book at the start, as Sabbath is such an utterly despicable person; the knowledge that my feelings about him were almost certainly what Roth had intended kept me moving forward. I have read more than a dozen of Roth's books now, and have come to trust him as he steers me through his stories. Sure enough, about half way in things start to get really interesting, and after a while deeply sympathetic and saddening. After the sheer disgust I felt for Sabbath, I was shocked to find myself moved almost to tears by him. This may not be Roth's single greatest work, but it belongs on the list.
Mary D
Sabbath’s Theater takes a cast of damaged characters in a plot that gives us sex; ageing; sex; war; sex; ghosts; sex; loss; sex; grief; sex; death; sex; loneliness; sex; suicide; sex; death; sex; family; sex; depression; sex; perversion and oh did I mention sex? The book starts out like a collection of Penthouse Forum stories. But don’t be fooled, there is much more here than just sex.

The main character is Mickey Sabbath a dirty old (in his 60’s) ex-puppeteer who manages find women that seem al Sabbath’s Theater takes a cast of damaged characters in a plot that gives us sex; ageing; sex; war; sex; ghosts; sex; loss; sex; grief; sex; death; sex; loneliness; sex; suicide; sex; death; sex; family; sex; depression; sex; perversion and oh did I mention sex? The book starts out like a collection of Penthouse Forum stories. But don’t be fooled, there is much more here than just sex.

The main character is Mickey Sabbath a dirty old (in his 60’s) ex-puppeteer who manages find women that seem almost as damaged as he is. Mickey is like the bad boy in school who seems to take great pride in his misadventures. In one instance he visits his wife in a clinic where she is getting help a drinking problem and he cheerfully introduces himself, “I am Mickey Sabbath. Everything you have heard about me is true. Everything is destroyed and I destroyed it.”

But Mickey’s bravado hides emotional scars and it is a testament to Roth’s brilliance that he gets us to twist and turn between empathy and disgust.

For me this is right up there with Human Stain as one of his best books however this won’t be for everyone.
Ry Pickard
every time i pull a philip roth book off of the shelf at the store, i always end up putting it back and deciding to wait for one that's not about the misadventures of some lecherous old man. i finally figured out that that's what all of them are about and picked this one up anyway. it's a testament to roth's writing that in a book filled with so many foul, off the wall man and woman moments, what really stands out is the character of mickey sabbath and his struggle to find a reason to live when every time i pull a philip roth book off of the shelf at the store, i always end up putting it back and deciding to wait for one that's not about the misadventures of some lecherous old man. i finally figured out that that's what all of them are about and picked this one up anyway. it's a testament to roth's writing that in a book filled with so many foul, off the wall man and woman moments, what really stands out is the character of mickey sabbath and his struggle to find a reason to live when he's lost everything. this guy is one of the biggest degenerates that i've ever had the pleasure of reading about. it's no small feat to create a character like this and then have him justify all of his actions in such a way that the reader is still rooting for him. i don't know that i'm ready to run out and join the philip roth fan club just yet because there was a lot of content that i could have done without, but the character stuff was more than enough to make me want to give roth another shot sometime.
Brian Grover
My first Philip Roth - and probably my last for a while. A mixed bag. First off, large chunks of text here that feel lifted from an old Penthouse Forum. I'm no prude, it just feels weirdly out of place. On the other hand, I do think there's some profound stuff in here on aging, and dying, and looking back on a life that feels largely wasted. That sort of thing is my literary cup of tea, and no question that Roth's a very talented writer.

At the end of the day, though, I guess there's just too muc My first Philip Roth - and probably my last for a while. A mixed bag. First off, large chunks of text here that feel lifted from an old Penthouse Forum. I'm no prude, it just feels weirdly out of place. On the other hand, I do think there's some profound stuff in here on aging, and dying, and looking back on a life that feels largely wasted. That sort of thing is my literary cup of tea, and no question that Roth's a very talented writer.

At the end of the day, though, I guess there's just too much misery here for me to love a book like this. Mickey Sabbath may be a funny guy, but he's a sociopath and a truly awful human being - to the point where you question whether his mistress Drenka would have given him a pass on how he treated everyone in the world save her. And the damage he does just ruins everyone around him. I like dark and cynical, but not hateful, which is where this novel spends most of its time.
Michael
This could have been his "masterwork," as Harold Bloom thinks it is, if only Roth hadn't painfully oversold Sabbath's irreverence: "He was sublimely effervescent about not being the good little boy in the box doing what he was told." Roth's playful experiments with language see Sabbath's tale through -- loved the difficult frequent switches from first to third person and back that he makes seem so effortless -- but the damned thing is too dated (anti-PC conservatism and misogyny that'll surely a This could have been his "masterwork," as Harold Bloom thinks it is, if only Roth hadn't painfully oversold Sabbath's irreverence: "He was sublimely effervescent about not being the good little boy in the box doing what he was told." Roth's playful experiments with language see Sabbath's tale through -- loved the difficult frequent switches from first to third person and back that he makes seem so effortless -- but the damned thing is too dated (anti-PC conservatism and misogyny that'll surely appeal to people who think South Park and The Family Guy are still relevant) and self-pitying to take completely seriously, even as a comedy. I once had a bit of a tiff with a former girlfriend over Roth's attitudes toward women in his My Life As a Man. I defended him then, but I'm not sure I can completely defend Sabbath's Theater, not because of Roth's attitude in the novel so much as his lugubriousness.
Willys
Sabbath's Theater has its virtues, among them a really interesting narratorial shift toward the end and its often excellent use of echoes, both from the canon and remembered dialogue from the characters. But Sabbath is so obsessively, disgustingly driven by sex--a drive that takes up a good portion of the first half of the novel--that Roth makes it difficult to read this book as anything other than a sort of hijacked fantasy. Sabbath, too, is so bizarre and potentially delusional that I don't ha Sabbath's Theater has its virtues, among them a really interesting narratorial shift toward the end and its often excellent use of echoes, both from the canon and remembered dialogue from the characters. But Sabbath is so obsessively, disgustingly driven by sex--a drive that takes up a good portion of the first half of the novel--that Roth makes it difficult to read this book as anything other than a sort of hijacked fantasy. Sabbath, too, is so bizarre and potentially delusional that I don't have much faith in anything he says. Untrustworthy narrators can be great, but when their perspectives on the world become so foreign and impossible to discern as to approach what we get from Sabbath, they risk transforming their stories into always-moving and ultimately meaningless vessels ("empty vessels", to use the metaphor Sabbath adores at book's end) for insanity and perversion.
Lauren
Progress report (15% read): Whenever I read Philip Roth, I always think, "Sex is far, far more important to this man than it is to most people." Over the years his writing about it has matured, but it is just so darn central to his thinking, and this book appears to be no exception. I'm plowing forward nonetheless.

Update (30% report): I give up, I give up, I give up. This may be Roth's best work, but I just can't do it. I'll sound like a prude, but the focus on sex is too much for me. But the re Progress report (15% read): Whenever I read Philip Roth, I always think, "Sex is far, far more important to this man than it is to most people." Over the years his writing about it has matured, but it is just so darn central to his thinking, and this book appears to be no exception. I'm plowing forward nonetheless.

Update (30% report): I give up, I give up, I give up. This may be Roth's best work, but I just can't do it. I'll sound like a prude, but the focus on sex is too much for me. But the real reason, more generally speaking, is that there is a looseness to Roth's writing that I just don't like. It is obnoxious for a non-writer nobody like I am to say this, but I feel a lack of control in his writing. It isn't taut in the way of writers I love, like Ian McEwan, or even lesser authors. And I lose interest in what just appears to be rambly writing.

I'm done with Roth. Possibly forever. How's that for drama?
Ashley
Eh? Well, the story of a bitter 60ish year old man who has spent his life as a "puppeteer" obsessed with sex. His lover of many years dies suddenly and he is plunged into a space where he needs to determine if he should continue living and, if so, to what end.

The book is well-written and the story could be good, but it is filled with literally scores and scores of pages with very, very graphically detailed descriptions of his sexual escapades and after a while that starts to get a pretty dull. I Eh? Well, the story of a bitter 60ish year old man who has spent his life as a "puppeteer" obsessed with sex. His lover of many years dies suddenly and he is plunged into a space where he needs to determine if he should continue living and, if so, to what end.

The book is well-written and the story could be good, but it is filled with literally scores and scores of pages with very, very graphically detailed descriptions of his sexual escapades and after a while that starts to get a pretty dull. I mean, I understand it did it all, but do I have to read about it over and over and over again? I got the feeling that Roth was just using the book as an outlet for all of his mid-life (or post mid-life) sexual cravings. But then I was warned that all of his books are like this, so maybe that's just how he is.
Noah
Roth x 100. Not a good place to start, definitely not for the neophyte. This is Roth's filthiest novel. It is perhaps the purest distillation of his worldview as well. Mickey Sabbath is one of his greatest creations, a creature of monumental opposition and self-loathing. Why, then, have I not awarded the book five stars? Although certain scenes, and most of the second half of the book, reach the very highest levels of Roth's art, there is also a lot of bloat here, especially in the sex scenes. I Roth x 100. Not a good place to start, definitely not for the neophyte. This is Roth's filthiest novel. It is perhaps the purest distillation of his worldview as well. Mickey Sabbath is one of his greatest creations, a creature of monumental opposition and self-loathing. Why, then, have I not awarded the book five stars? Although certain scenes, and most of the second half of the book, reach the very highest levels of Roth's art, there is also a lot of bloat here, especially in the sex scenes. I'm not offended, but it does get tedious. We get the point (sex as protest against death, as life force), and we get the point, and we get the point etc. Nonetheless, "Sabbath's Theater" is an upper-tier Roth book, and I would recommend it to those who have enjoyed any of the Zuckerman novels or the early satires.
Kaylee
Oh, a recommendation gone awry! I should have known after it took me two tries to get started that I wouldn't really enjoy this book (despite it being "different" than his other books -- really?).

Maybe I'm just not into dirty old men; maybe I thought Drenka's cause of death was over-the-top in the poetic justice/comedic department; maybe I just hate writing that switches perspective from one sentence to the next. Regardless, I couldn't care less about any of the characters, male or female. I did Oh, a recommendation gone awry! I should have known after it took me two tries to get started that I wouldn't really enjoy this book (despite it being "different" than his other books -- really?).

Maybe I'm just not into dirty old men; maybe I thought Drenka's cause of death was over-the-top in the poetic justice/comedic department; maybe I just hate writing that switches perspective from one sentence to the next. Regardless, I couldn't care less about any of the characters, male or female. I didn't think the writing was astounding or different. I just trudged through the whole damn book thinking, "But there has to be redeeming value in this, right?" The humor wasn't funny, the satire wasn't clever, and the repetition was masturbatory. So I guess that pretty much fulfills the Philip Roth equation. At least he's more or less predictable.
Jeff
A bittersweet story of a sex-obsessed, aging, self-identified-as-failure puppeteer. He spends most of the book contemplating how to kill himself, seeing very little in his life worth living for. But then his indomitable spirit takes over to, for instance, try to fuck a massively overweight maid in the house of a friend he is staying with.

More seriously though, there are some beautiful passages of Sabbath's longing for his brother, shot down in the Pacific in WWII. Also great is when Sabbath trie A bittersweet story of a sex-obsessed, aging, self-identified-as-failure puppeteer. He spends most of the book contemplating how to kill himself, seeing very little in his life worth living for. But then his indomitable spirit takes over to, for instance, try to fuck a massively overweight maid in the house of a friend he is staying with.

More seriously though, there are some beautiful passages of Sabbath's longing for his brother, shot down in the Pacific in WWII. Also great is when Sabbath tries to buy a burial plot and is forced to imagine himself lying interred below a small triangular patchc of grass where two busy streets intersect.

I am really starting to get allergic to aging baby boomer "what does it all mean" fiction. This doesn't quite fit that mold, but it was close enough to make it a fairly average experience for me.
cheeseblab
Not much to say about this, except that I'm excited to be moving on to the book via which I rediscovered Roth. This one is sort of the Quentin section of The Sound and the Fury if it were 450pp long and focused on lots of women instead of just one sister--or, rather, on lots of variations on sex. I've come (you should pardon the expression) to be increasingly disenchanted w/ Roth's orgasmocentric narrators.

Oh, by the way, though I read the copy I'd snagged from a remainder table, I guess, this c Not much to say about this, except that I'm excited to be moving on to the book via which I rediscovered Roth. This one is sort of the Quentin section of The Sound and the Fury if it were 450pp long and focused on lots of women instead of just one sister--or, rather, on lots of variations on sex. I've come (you should pardon the expression) to be increasingly disenchanted w/ Roth's orgasmocentric narrators.

Oh, by the way, though I read the copy I'd snagged from a remainder table, I guess, this can also be found in the sixth volume of the Library of America's collected Roth.
Karen
Whatever this book is -- colourful, journey-esque, theatrical, brimming with literary allusions -- it is intentionally so. but it is also intentionally misogynistic, twisted, OTT, with a protagonist i can't care a whit for. the problem is not so much that there is nothing redeeming about Mickey Sabbath; the problem is that in the absence of anything else that might render the book attractive (such as interesting secondary characters or even something as mundane as a plot!), this makes for really Whatever this book is -- colourful, journey-esque, theatrical, brimming with literary allusions -- it is intentionally so. but it is also intentionally misogynistic, twisted, OTT, with a protagonist i can't care a whit for. the problem is not so much that there is nothing redeeming about Mickey Sabbath; the problem is that in the absence of anything else that might render the book attractive (such as interesting secondary characters or even something as mundane as a plot!), this makes for really tedious reading, however "clever" the writing. i know it's been said that satire has a hollow heart because its purpose is to demolish absolutely everything it touches. Roth seems to have been aiming in this direction, but at least Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift had some good yarns to tell.
Yossarianxxi
This is my first Roth novel and I came into it not knowing anything about him, his writing or this book. Well I couldn't make it more than 80 pages into this.

It's not solely because the book is sexually explicit (and it is the most sexually explicit novel I've ever read). I'm no prude. The depraved explicit sexual content was so numerous and so graphic that it just got in the way of the story.

Sex scenes (even decrepit shocking ones) I can handle as long as it furthers the story. Sex scenes tha This is my first Roth novel and I came into it not knowing anything about him, his writing or this book. Well I couldn't make it more than 80 pages into this.

It's not solely because the book is sexually explicit (and it is the most sexually explicit novel I've ever read). I'm no prude. The depraved explicit sexual content was so numerous and so graphic that it just got in the way of the story.

Sex scenes (even decrepit shocking ones) I can handle as long as it furthers the story. Sex scenes that are only there for the sake of it is pornography. This had far too many of the latter, in my opinion.

I realize that Roth has his die-hard fans and die-hard antagonists, I don't count myself as either. But I can't see myself ever picking up another one of his books after this. oof
Evyn Charles
Centers around one of the most unsympathetic fictional characters I have ever read. I almost did not finish this book because Mickey Sabbath is so disturbing and vile but... Philip Roth's writing is brilliant as usual so I viewed it as a writing exercice in pushing the envelope, so to speak.
The last part of the book winds down as a redemption of sorts, both of the body of the book and Mickey Sabbath's life. It gives some context and understanding to what preceded, and makes it somewhat more unde Centers around one of the most unsympathetic fictional characters I have ever read. I almost did not finish this book because Mickey Sabbath is so disturbing and vile but... Philip Roth's writing is brilliant as usual so I viewed it as a writing exercice in pushing the envelope, so to speak.
The last part of the book winds down as a redemption of sorts, both of the body of the book and Mickey Sabbath's life. It gives some context and understanding to what preceded, and makes it somewhat more understandable so that I didn't feel like this was a completely worthless story about a worthless human being... but almost completely worthless on both counts IMHO.
If you have never read this author, definitely do not start with this book.
Lynn
Such an astonishingly facile work of prose would easily earn five stars in most people's estimations. However, this book goes way, way over the line of decency in its frequent and interminable depiction of sexual scenes that can only be categorized as outright pornography. It was the writing that moved me to keep going to the end together with the reality that at my age little surprises or shocks me any more. But it seems to me that at least someone should stand up and speak out when something i Such an astonishingly facile work of prose would easily earn five stars in most people's estimations. However, this book goes way, way over the line of decency in its frequent and interminable depiction of sexual scenes that can only be categorized as outright pornography. It was the writing that moved me to keep going to the end together with the reality that at my age little surprises or shocks me any more. But it seems to me that at least someone should stand up and speak out when something is definitely too much. Thus my one-star rating.

Mr. Roth, you are one of my favorite authors. I particularly loved American Pastoral, which I intend to reread sometime in the next year. But I found much of Sabbath's Theater outright offensive.
Mark Dunn
Story about 64 year-old Mickey Sabbath, a retired puppeteer.

Deals with his trip into madness, starting with the death of his long time mistress, Drenka, with whom he played out many sexual fantasies.

Looks at the process of madness, from the view of the madman, as he struggles with death, and the loss sufferred when loved ones go missing or pass away. Some examples from the book include his brother, lost at war, his first wife, who went missing, her mother, with whom she spent many days after her Story about 64 year-old Mickey Sabbath, a retired puppeteer.

Deals with his trip into madness, starting with the death of his long time mistress, Drenka, with whom he played out many sexual fantasies.

Looks at the process of madness, from the view of the madman, as he struggles with death, and the loss sufferred when loved ones go missing or pass away. Some examples from the book include his brother, lost at war, his first wife, who went missing, her mother, with whom she spent many days after her death, Drenka, who died of cancer, and his mother, who died after a long life spent grieving for her lost son (Mickey's brother).

Often excessive, and unnecessary, although you do come away with a feeling of the madness that Mickey is suffering.
Anne
The main character is a sexually obsessed, self-centred, selfish and at times pervy 64 year old man without empathy or thought for anyone else. A large part of this long book is about sexual acts/thoughts which are tedious more than anything else. There are some parts that have more interest, such as his wife's battle with alcoholism and his memories of his childhood and brother, but would have had more to them had they been told by a more sympathetic, emotionally intelligent narrator. Despite h The main character is a sexually obsessed, self-centred, selfish and at times pervy 64 year old man without empathy or thought for anyone else. A large part of this long book is about sexual acts/thoughts which are tedious more than anything else. There are some parts that have more interest, such as his wife's battle with alcoholism and his memories of his childhood and brother, but would have had more to them had they been told by a more sympathetic, emotionally intelligent narrator. Despite his reflections on his past the character does not develop, either through his life or during the course of the novel and remains 2 dimensional. Unpleasant man and novel.
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