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Thursday, May 24, 2018

The poverty of sex

I note, with some satisfaction, that I am now Bucknell University's Greatest Living Novelist. Not that they are likely to brag about that fact any time soon or ask me to speak at graduation. The thing is, for all his much-ballyhooed and oft-awarded literary talent, Philip Roth was a boring and trivial novelist because he could never get his damned hands out of his own pants.
Roth’s enduring subject matter was the American male’s carnality in the age of the Sexual Revolution, and he was honest and pitiless and unsentimental about it. In his 2001 novel “The Human Stain” he railed against the neo-Puritanism that he said resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, but his own work offers a horrifyingly bleak view of Americans liberated from puritanical attitudes that would warm the heart of any present-day Cotton Mather.

He began with sexuality denied. The title story of “Goodbye Columbus” concerns a couple of New Jersey kids in their early 20s — young, attractive, full of life — and how their relationship cannot survive her mother’s discovery that they are having sex. Though Roth was not a writer whose work ever delivered a message, “Goodbye Columbus” certainly makes you think that the social stricture against premarital sex was something not protective but corrosive.

Ten years later, in “Portnoy’s Complaint,” the title character pleasures himself with a piece of liver during his adolescence and goes on to a series of ruinous relationships with inappropriate women that land him (maybe for eternity) on a psychoanalyst’s couch.

Roth lays Portnoy’s complaint firmly at the feet of his simultaneously emasculating and stimulating monster of a mother. Surely a more enlightened kind of mother was emerging in 1969, when the book was published, a new kind of mother who wouldn’t distort her son in this way.

But how did this all turn out for Roth’s characters, most of whom are versions of Roth himself? Not well. His novels from “Portnoy” onward feature variegated portraits of crippled men for whom there is no liberation. The world of freer sex isn’t freeing for any of them. And like Roth himself, none of his male characters (with one exception) ever finds any real happiness or contentment in marriage or as a parent.

The novelist Nathan Zuckerman is felled by mysterious back pain that makes it impossible for him to write. This metaphor for impotence becomes literal in later books. In 1995’s “American Pastoral,” Zuckerman has become literally impotent after prostate surgery and even seems slightly relieved to have been taken out of the game.

In “The Human Stain,” published six years later, a professor in his 70s takes Viagra in a desperate effort to perform with his illiterate cleaning-lady girlfriend, barely out of her 20s.

The late novels “Exit Ghost,” “The Dying Animal” and “The Humbling” offer an unsparing and despairing view of a man no longer able to perform — a problem made especially acute by the fact that the Roth stand-ins here are alone and solitary with little to distract them but their failing bodies.

Only once, in “American Pastoral,” did Roth find the imaginative power to conjure up a person unlike himself who embraces bourgeois life and bourgeois domesticity.
The arc of Roth's literary career should be shown to sex-obsessed schoolboys in order to demonstrate to them that there is vastly more to life than getting laid. Sex is natural and sex is good, but for the love of all that is beautiful, good, and true, it's very, very far from the only interesting thing in life.

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63 Comments:

Blogger Ledford Ledford May 24, 2018 1:10 PM  

I always preferred John Updike to Roth. Updike actually seemed to like and sympathize with his characters, deeply flawed though they may have been.

I don't think Updike will be seen 50 years from now as a great novelist, but perhaps as a chronicler of his time on the level of Henry James. Roth I doubt will be remembered at all outside of literature department specialists.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 24, 2018 1:19 PM  

If the publishing industry were not dominated and controlled by (((Tribalists))), would Roth have had a career as a novelist? I tried to read Portnoy's Complaint, and it's just (((neuroticism))) turned up to 12 and ejaculated onto the page.

Blogger Sillon Bono May 24, 2018 1:24 PM  

(((The tribe))) sexually envies us, there is no denying this. You can tell by how the (((media))) ruled by (((Gay))) portrays white couples in modern movies and shows.

Specially they envy traditional European marriage. Before no-fault divorce laws and "independent and strong whamen" culture traditional marriage worked very well for the most part, and made people happy both sexually and as a family.

Blogger MickDundee May 24, 2018 1:25 PM  

Why are so many Jewish writers perverts? Real question, not rhetorical.

Blogger peppermint May 24, 2018 1:31 PM  

their relationship cannot survive her mother’s discovery that they are having sex is beyond retarded. Marriage is the obvious solution, marriage is vastly better than modern "long term relationships" that are the result of schooling and mass immigration keeping young men from being able to get a career going. Puritans are, of course, wrong: it was puritans who thought schooling was a good idea in the first place. And no, masturbation and getting milk without owning the cow have nothing to do with the lack of mareiage, a man who doesn't own the cow intrinsically sees himself as a cuck.

Blogger Desdichado May 24, 2018 1:39 PM  

MickDundee wrote:Why are so many Jewish writers perverts? Real question, not rhetorical.
It's not isolated to their writers.

Blogger FALPhil May 24, 2018 1:40 PM  

I will miss neither Philip Roth nor Jerzy Kosiński. They were both twisted perverts.

Blogger Warunicorn May 24, 2018 1:42 PM  

"Sex is natural and sex is good, but for the love of all that is beautiful, good, and true, it's very, very far from the only interesting thing in life."

Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, this.

It's amazing how some guys think it's the end of the world if they can't get their rocks off. Look at how practically all gays define themselves. The wank is their god. It'd be humorous if it wasn't so pathetically shallow. lol

Blogger VD May 24, 2018 1:44 PM  

Why are so many Jewish writers perverts? Real question, not rhetorical.

They are hard gammas. They're very bitter about their physical unattractiveness, which is why the bad guy in every 80s teen movie is a tall, good-looking blond man who loses the pretty blonde to the plain guy with dark, curly hair.

See: Ted McGinnis. He owes his entire film career to Jewish gamma writers.

Blogger Lyon May 24, 2018 1:47 PM  

"His novels from 'Portnoy' onward feature variegated portraits of crippled men for whom there is no liberation. The world of freer sex isn’t freeing for any of them. And like Roth himself, none of his male characters (with one exception) ever finds any real happiness or contentment in marriage or as a parent."

That is precisely why his work was elevated.

NYT headline: "Philip Roth, Towering Novelist Who Explored Lust, Jewish Life and America, Dies at 85"

There seems to be a typo in that headline. Replace "and" with "on" and read the blurb above again. Jewish life on America is all about the crippling of men. Our kind.

Roth's novels were not for our regeneration but weaponized "literature" for its opposite effect.

Blogger Elijah May 24, 2018 1:57 PM  

interestingly, the left claims they value sex and want to "free it" but actually they devalue sex and want all to act like animals. Christians value sex greatly and understand that it is so powerful that it takes maturity and, yes, marriage to fully enjoy it and not let it destroy ones life.

Blogger Ledford Ledford May 24, 2018 1:59 PM  

VD wrote:See: Ted McGinnis. He owes his entire film career to Jewish gamma writers.

You mean Ted McGinley (Happy Days, Married with Children)?

My first thought was William Zabka (Blonde villain from Karate Kid, Back to School, etc.).

Blogger Peter Gent May 24, 2018 2:01 PM  

I don't think Mr. Roth is very happy right about now.

Blogger matveidaniilovich May 24, 2018 2:02 PM  

Daniel-san is a crypto-Jew.

Blogger Resident Moron™ May 24, 2018 2:11 PM  

Snidely

Woody Allen being the film version.

One case where the book’s exactly as bad as the film.

Blogger Resident Moron™ May 24, 2018 2:14 PM  

If anyone is interested I have a profound essay in pdf form, by the late Robert L Kocher, on the power of sex. Happy to email it.

Re-reading it in light of modern gammas and carousel riders is interesting.

Blogger Ledford Ledford May 24, 2018 2:25 PM  

I like Woody Allen movies, but I must admit the obsession with barely legal shiksas is creepy.

The only Roth novel I've read is Goodbye Columbus for a college class. Didn't like it, don't remember much. Maybe not a fair hearing. Don't think I'll bother reading another, though.

Blogger Baseball Savant May 24, 2018 2:27 PM  

But but Red Pill tells me that getting laid by 10s and having outstanding game is the ONLY thing that matters.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia May 24, 2018 2:28 PM  

Ledford Ledford wrote:I always preferred John Updike to Roth. Updike actually seemed to like and sympathize with his characters, deeply flawed though they may have been.

I don't think Updike will be seen 50 years from now as a great novelist, but perhaps as a chronicler of his time on the level of Henry James. Roth I doubt will be remembered at all outside of literature department specialists.


Assuming American Lit courses in the future actually read real American literature (this assumes Toni Morrison is consigned to the metaphorical reamainder bin), Henry James will be read, and Updike will not.

Henry James is a great novelist, even though his books are period pieces about period psycholgoy

Blogger Ledford Ledford May 24, 2018 2:33 PM  

KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia wrote:Henry James is a great novelist, even though his books are period pieces about period psycholgoy

I think Updike got the Silent Generation adults (e.g. Rabbit) right. Helped me to understand my parents generation, so as period pieces I appreciate his books. Henry James will be read, Updike we'll see.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia May 24, 2018 2:33 PM  

VD wrote.
Sex is natural and sex is good, but for the love of all that is beautiful, good, and true, it's very, very far from the only interesting thing in life.

It's high on the list, though behind finding a vocaton you love, friends and family who are there for you (and you for them), great art and literature, and intellectual pursuits.

Some might put relgion as number 1.

Blogger Bubba May 24, 2018 2:47 PM  

@4: "Why are so many Jewish writers perverts? Real question, not rhetorical."

They aren't perverts, they are pre-Modern. Tribal patriarchies with roots in the desert and shtetl don't fare so well when abruptly thrust into modern industrial libertarian/egalitarian cultures. Philip Roth, Shulamith Firestone, Andrea Dworkin, Freud, Woody Allen, the list is endless.

From our perspective it may look like a sex obsession/perversion (particularly when blonde shiksas in shorts are concerned), but the source is the sudden liberation from rabbinical/patriarchal control.

In short, it isn't perversion, it is major daddy issues and mommy issues at a cultural level.

Blogger seeingsights May 24, 2018 2:48 PM  

Philip Roth also wrote a genre novel, The Plot Against America. In that alternate history novel, FDR loses a Presidential election to Charles Lindbergh. Being Jewish in this alternate America is not easy.

In an interview, Roth was talking like he was the first writer to write such a thing. (Face palm). Typical ignorance of genre fiction from literary types.

It turns out that some of my favorite "literary" writers -Murakami, Pynchon, Chabon---are strongly influenced by genre. Genre fiction has more interesting subject matter. My ideal fiction has style and substance.

Blogger Ben Cohen May 24, 2018 3:10 PM  

There are plenty of Jewish blondes.

So many Jews remind me of feminists complaining about men in that they're always puffing themselves up about how great they are and that the other has an inferority complex. It's projection 101.

Blogger Damn Crackers May 24, 2018 3:17 PM  

@5 answers @4's question...Jewish mothers.

Blogger Ben Cohen May 24, 2018 3:29 PM  

Look, there's a problem in the Jewish community, just like the Catholic Church, of rabbis sexually abusing children. This was covered up until the internet blew the scandals wide open.

When people have infallible power like the pope or rabbis (eg it says in the Torah to listen to rabbis - conflict of interest) it will be abused because generally people that desire to rule others are sick or evil.

Blogger DonReynolds May 24, 2018 3:42 PM  

For many good reasons, it seems, every generation thinks they invented sex and so nobody else understands what it means to them. Of course, it is silly, but so many other things are also silly that it does not merit much parlor talk...except in the women's magazines.

Every person ages slightly every day. Sometimes quickly, some even dramatically, but they all know that the body fails us, regardless of what we want or what we eat or how much we exercise. Happier people seem to accept the facts of life and the bitter ones seem to think life is unfair. Of course, life is unfair but it is unfair to everybody. It is not about you.

Blogger Bogey May 24, 2018 3:46 PM  

Read him when I was younger only because I didn't know any better; I read Bukowski as well who was also a sack of shit.

Blogger Tank May 24, 2018 3:53 PM  

American Pastoral was pretty good book.

Blogger pyrrhus May 24, 2018 4:11 PM  

@23 Yes, I remember the Plot Against America being a very 2d rate alternate history novel, with (((Walter Winchell))) running for President in 1940...No real substance to it, nor did it ever explain why Lindy wouldn't have been a huge improvement over FDR, except that NYC didn't like him.

Blogger Anthony May 24, 2018 4:14 PM  

So Woody Allen may not have been a bad as he's reported to be. Seen on Insty this morning.

Of course, he still did sleep with his girlfriend's 18-year-old daughter.

Blogger My Dead Gramps May 24, 2018 4:15 PM  

Sex is supposed to be fun. His writing doesn't sound like he's having much fun.

How the Dickens does he even HAVE a writing career?

Blogger English Tom May 24, 2018 4:21 PM  

Why are so many Jewish people perverts.

FIFY

Blogger English Tom May 24, 2018 4:26 PM  

It is major daddy and mommy issues at a cultural level.

Yes but (((they))) control the culture and so infect it with their degeneracy and we all suffer.

Blogger English Tom May 24, 2018 4:28 PM  

I hear the rabbis are so wise and pure that God relies on their advice regarding the affairs of heaven.

Blogger Starboard May 24, 2018 4:30 PM  

"But how did this all turn out for Roth’s characters, most of whom are versions of Roth himself? Not well. His novels from “Portnoy” onward feature variegated portraits of crippled men for whom there is no liberation. The world of freer sex isn’t freeing for any of them."

Interesting. Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray ends badly for Dorian as well. Why do they proselytize for hedonism if they can't even let their characters live happily ever after? Is it sadism (or projected masochism) at a deeper level, or do they really not see that happiness is possible?

Blogger Elliot Rodger May 24, 2018 4:44 PM  

"Sex is ... very, very far from the only interesting thing in life."

Nor is water the most important thing in life -- unless you're stuck in a desert dying of dehydration. It's easy to say something isn't that important when you're getting an adequate supply of it.

People miss this because they assume that guys are getting more sex now thanks to the Sexual Revolution, so why are they so obsessed with it? In fact, most guys are getting less sex than before thanks to female hypergamy.

Blogger Starboard May 24, 2018 4:44 PM  

32. My Dead Gramps May 24, 2018 4:15 PM
Sex is supposed to be fun. His writing doesn't sound like he's having much fun.

How the Dickens does he even HAVE a writing career?

All good things, when taken out of their proper places, cease to be fun. Raising anything up and worshiping it as an idol is a recipe for disappointment. Even the best things in life are no replacement for God.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 24, 2018 4:45 PM  

Starboard wrote:Why do they proselytize for hedonism if they can't even let their characters live happily ever after? Is it sadism (or projected masochism) at a deeper level, or do they really not see that happiness is possible?
Because like all Hedonists, they live lives of despair. They know that all their immediate gratification is ultimately unfulfilling, and leads to desperate unhappiness, but the alternative is delaying the gratification, and they're not willing to accept that.

Blogger Starboard May 24, 2018 4:53 PM  

39. Snidley. True, but why don't they lie? If their works are works of propaganda, why do they insist on portraying the unhappiness? They are accidentally telling the sad failure of their philosophy. At least in the fairy tale Beauty tamed the Beast and we were all better people.

Or perhaps they are only writing what they know and wallowing where they are, and I am reading too much into it.

Blogger peppermint May 24, 2018 4:53 PM  

What they're proselytizing for isn't hedonism but no rules. They argue for no rules by saying that there is no advantage to be had by taking advantage of no rules in the most obvious way, which is true. What they really want is to use their status to fuck nubile college girls on the side while maintaining a normal family life for themselves paid for by those girls' fathers' taxes and tuition.

Hedonism isn't the goal. Telling you you can be liberated from rules that exist for your protection if you aupport a parasite is the goal, and it works for refugees welcome antifa liberated to fuck in the mud as long as they use pronouns as surely as for Boomers fucking in the mud buying drugs and concert tickets.

Blogger Ledford Ledford May 24, 2018 5:16 PM  

Anthony wrote:So Woody Allen may not have been a bad as he's reported to be. Seen on Insty this morning.

Of course, he still did sleep with his girlfriend's 18-year-old daughter.


Starting reading this, stopped because I hate reading about child abuse. I always thought Mia Farrow was a nutjob, but Good Lord. Keep your children well away from Hollywood or anyone associated with it.

I feel sorry for anyone caught in that sort of family situation, no matter how you apportion responsibility (Allen, Farrow, etc.). I think in the end, Woody Allen's comment "The heart wants what it wants" sums up the core problem of secular materialism/hedonism. I say this as someone who likes his movies. Note that however you condemn or exonerate him for the family dysfunction, he picked Mia Farrow.

Blogger JohnR219 May 24, 2018 5:23 PM  

@22: Rabbinical Judaism is a perversion of Mosaic Judaism. Before the Babylonian Captivity, lineage was traced through the father and there were no rabbis. The Israelites mixed paganism and Judaism and that is what came back from Babylon, rabbis and matrilineal lines of descent.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash May 24, 2018 5:34 PM  

Starboard wrote:True, but why don't they lie?
There are many faults to be found with Hedonism. Dishonesty is not one of them. People who can lie to themselves rarely feel any need for Hedonism.
If their works are works of propaganda, why do they insist on portraying the unhappiness? They are accidentally telling the sad failure of their philosophy.
That is the point.
You may have heard it expressed other ways, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" or "Seize the Day!" They sound inspiring but they're the slogans of despair.
Hedonism is still the philosophy of the superannuated wretch raping the neighbor girl.

Blogger Gianna May 24, 2018 5:37 PM  

@31 Not only was she 18 but also I believe mildly retarded. A friend worked with Soon-Yi (when she was an intern) and told me she was well below average intelligence and incapable of following instructions.

Blogger Starboard May 24, 2018 5:49 PM  

32, 39, 41

I forgot the stubborn rebellion angle to this whole thing. Even if it leads to sad end and sure defeat, there is a melodramtic power in standing athwart the tracks....

Blogger S. Misanthrope May 24, 2018 6:07 PM  

I feel sorry for those who never have sex with the intent (on both sides) to create a child. It’s an incomprable experience.

I turned away from marriage and family due to growing up around bad ones but eventually came to realize there’s a reason certain things are consistently viewed as sacred transition points in life in many cultures and religions. My marriage and my child are easily the most important things I’ve done in life so far.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella May 24, 2018 6:07 PM  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_Gz_iTuRMM

you might appreciate.

I wondered why the shy, incredibly nice young men were getting slandered so viciously in movies.

Blogger Starboard May 24, 2018 6:48 PM  

S Misanthrope,

Amen to that. It just gets better as the kids get older. My oldest graduated this spring.

Blogger The Kurgan May 24, 2018 7:01 PM  

^^^ This.

Blogger James Dixon May 24, 2018 8:26 PM  

> I am now Bucknell University's Greatest Living Novelist.

Hail to the King. Long may he reign.

> So Woody Allen may not have been a bad as he's reported to be.

BS. He was worse than he's reported to be. You don't think anyone would allow the truth to be told if they could help it, do you?

Blogger Mark Tait May 24, 2018 8:46 PM  

The Literary Legend of Lewisburg does have a nice ring to it.

Something tells me the Dark Lord kicked some serious ass at Beirut.

Blogger bob kek mando - ( Creepy Joe Biden always asks for consent before changing your baby's diaper ) May 24, 2018 10:25 PM  

39. Snidely Whiplash May 24, 2018 4:45 PM
but the alternative is delaying the gratification, and they're not willing to accept that.



ie - Narcissists do NOT admit fault in any serious way.

if the Long Term consequence of their Short Term pleasure seeking is painful? why, that must be the fault of God / moralists / their dad / the Bourgeoisie, etc.

Blogger Doktor Jeep May 24, 2018 11:39 PM  

I tell young lads two things.
Sex is overrated.
Don't drink until you are 40.

Blogger Phil Mann May 25, 2018 1:03 AM  

"I feel sorry for those who never have sex with the intent (on both sides) to create a child. It’s an incomprable experience."

Married men with wanted children understand this. You are so right.

Blogger Thad tuiol May 25, 2018 2:20 AM  

As someone who has slept with over 40 Japanese women, I can testify that sex is overrated.

Blogger tublecane May 25, 2018 2:54 AM  

I started reading Indignation some time ago. It was dry and simple in the modernistic manner, but not entirely unpleasant. Mostly about Jewish alienation, paranoia, and the inferiority complex. Although there were socially well-adjusted Jews in the book; it's really just that the mai character was a jerk.

Anyway, wasn't Kong before it turned into nothing but handjobs, and I tuned out.

The Plot Against America I read some of long ago, and I can barely remember any of it. It was a bit odd, but mostly what you'd expect from a Jewish version of It Can't Happen Here.

Blogger tublecane May 25, 2018 2:57 AM  

About sex, I remember my first time thinking: "That's it? That's what everyone's talking about?" I never could understand why people obsess over it. Then again, I don't understand why people obsess about a lot of things.

I kept at it, because sex is just one of those things people do.

Blogger tublecane May 25, 2018 3:15 AM  

@14- Is there anything about Daniel LaRusso as a Jew that can't be covered by the fact that he's Italian and from Jersey?

I might expect him to be tougher, but remember, he's practicing karate before he gets picked on. He doesn't back down from the first fight on the beach. He moves in on Johnny's ex-girl fairly openly. He does some sneaking around, but he pulls that prank at the dance and isn't all nervous and pacifistic or anything. It's just that he gets in way over his head and needs help.

His mom comes off as Jewish, admittedly. And he's not very Italian, except by looks. There's the whole Blonde Beast villain and identifying with the other ethnic minority thing. But I dunno.

Jews aren't the only people that get picked on, and Daniel's reaction isn't stereotypically Jewish. Except that he's a Fish out of Water.

Blogger tublecane May 25, 2018 3:25 AM  

@22- You remind me of the book Ordeal of Civility.

The shtetl vs. impersonal modern life idea makes sense, but it's really not been so sudden. When were they liberated from the ghettos and let past the pale of settlement? The 19th century? Isn't that long enough to get used to us?

That book is written by an Irishman, and he has the Irish and Jews as twin "latecomers to modernity." Not that the Irish ever became true Americans (except ones who were Founding Stock), but they fit in better than Jews. Blacks will never fit in, obviously. But Jews could try harder.

Blogger tublecane May 25, 2018 3:31 AM  

@23- Notice the distinction between "genre" fiction and "literary" fiction doesn't exist for the classics. I don't know when the phony divide between them rose, but it almost certainly got worse with modernism if it predated it.

With modern and postmodern fiction, the more esteemed is generally less popular. Critics and academics figure any idiot can understand things like plot, character, theme, setting, and most everything else readers care about.

Blogger peppermint May 25, 2018 12:43 PM  

Literary fiction exists because of academics and sucks for the same reason academics suck. JRR Tolkien was a professor but didn't write literary fiction.

Blogger Frank Lee May 25, 2018 3:54 PM  

tublecane wrote:@23-
With modern and postmodern fiction, the more esteemed is generally less popular. Critics and academics figure any idiot can understand things like plot, character, theme, setting, and most everything else readers care about.


The problem with genre fiction is that it requires craft and talent. And it can be judged objectively based on it's success. There is no need for critical analysis. It's either entertaining and popular or it isn't. Literary fiction, because it's neither, requires the assistance of critics to find success. Which gives critics and academics power.

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