Philip Roth: ‘the kind of satirical genius that comes along once in a generation’

Martin Amis in The Guardian:

Writers of genuine originality are always divisive. Roth alienated not just the occasional reader but entire communities, reviled, first, by world Jewry, and later by world feminism. This choric hostility was in both cases essentially socio-cultural, and not literary. You can understand the historical uneasiness, but World Jewry got it wrong about Roth, a proud Jew as well as a proud American. And the feminist objection is impetuously sweeping; it detects no distance between Roth and his (often deplorable) narrators. Besides, if you outlaw misogyny as a subject, then you outlaw King Lear, and much else.

My subjective impression is that Portnoy’s Complaint is still the diamond in the crown. Here the Jewish-American Novel is narrowed down to one idea: gentile girls, shiksas (“detested things”), where ancient laws of purity come up against American womanhood, and the inevitability of material America. In Portnoy all the great themes are there (all except mortality): fathers, mothers, children, the male libido, suffering, and Israel. Roth torches this bonfire with the kind of satirical genius that comes along, if we’re lucky, perhaps once in every generation.

More here.