Writing the book was a labor of love: I meant it to be a playful gloss on, and companion to, Portnoy's Complaint, which was among the books that changed my life--but not only mine. I am gratified that a good number of reviewers got the point and thought it worked. Here, following, are some excepts from what they had to say.
Here, also, a link to an unedited interview I did for Australian Broadcasting, which was the best I did in the months after the book was released. And also this text of a lecture about Portnoy and Roth I gave recently in Jerusalem, which summarizes the book's major claims and gives a sounding of its voice. First, some reviews:
"The meditative approach of Avishai’s study, framed by his informed and engaging style, pays homage to Roth’s novel. Promiscuous is an engaging companion to Portnoy’s Complaint – as well as an important contribution to scholarship – and dispels Avishai’s concern that ‘readers like books about books about as much as they like a cousin’s snapshots of Prague’."
— Tom Ue, Times Literary Supplement
“Avishai (whose intellect and wit well serve his friend Roth) is a perceptive literary and historic guide to the Portnoy phenomenon and the passionate response the novel engendered. . . . Erudite yet playful. . . . Highly recommended.”
— Choice, American Library Association
"A spirited engagement with the 1969 breakthrough novel that brought Philip Roth both renown and notoriety. . . . Avishai ventures far and wide over literary, philosophical and other cultural touchstones, providing a context for Roth's novel that encompasses James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Jackson Pollock, and Judd Apatow. Avishai proves both an informed and engaging guide to the novel and its legacy."
— Kirkus Reviews
“A very serious and very funny book about a very serious and very funny book.”
— Jerome Chanes, The Forward
“Bernard Avishai has written a spirited, loving, richly insightful appreciation of Portnoy's Complaint as cultural phenomenon, generational totem, instinctual liberation, and, above all, stupendous work of art. A marvelous book for anyone who wishes to relive and to understand the thrill, scandal and triumph of Roth's comic masterpiece.”
—Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
“An affectionate, attentive, rumbustious meditation on Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, which also provides a robust, opinionated history of twentieth-century American Jewishness, sexual politics, literary criticism, psychoanalysis, skepticism and joking.”
— Hermione Lee, President, Wolfson College, Oxford University, Author of Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton
“This is the best thing on Roth yet written. Avishai’s breezy, intimate style is propelled by considerable scholarship, not only locating this breakout novel in Roth’s life and work, but building a launching pad for Avishai’s own dazzling cultural, intellectual, religious, and psychoanalytical explorations. Promiscuous proves Roth to be our boldest, best, and brightest fiction writer.”
— Robert Brustein, Founder, American Reporatory Theater
“How can one make a text so notorious, so unrelentingly charged, even more unique than it already is? It is to Avishai’s great credit that, in many respects, he lives up to this task, not least because his prose teems with unbounded passion. He offers keen insight into a novel that one would think has exhausted further possible excavation from critics and readers alike.”
— Sam Kerbel, Tablet
“I was there. I read Portnoy—eagerly, with both hands!—the week it came out. And let me tell you, Avishai nails it. He explains it, re-explains it, plumbs the depths and jokes and gives backstories I was too ignorant and giddy to notice. And not just that: Promiscuous kept the smile on my face from start to finish.”
—Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker