"In my time,” one of Saul Bellow’s characters muses, “parents didn’t hesitate to speak of death. What they seldom mentioned was sex. We’ve got it the other way around.” No American novelist has written more candidly and aggressively about both than Philip Roth. From the raucous confessions of Portnoy’s Complaint to the stirring remembrances in Patrimony and the musings of what became his trilogy on postwar American life, Roth has endowed his characters with almost lawless freedom. But in Roth’s work freedom is not a romantic dream of transcendence; it is a grounded, embodied experience of life. His characters don’t want to escape their humanity, they want to explore it and maximize it. They prefer the nooks and dead ends of the labyrinth to promises of release.


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