Friday, July 18, 2014

The BreastThe Breast by Philip Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved Philip Roth's "Goodbye, Columbus" when I read it some 45 years ago (note to myself: re-read it, as an adult). Alas, I cannot say the same about "The Breast" (1972), a strange tale of a 38 year-old David Kepesh, a literature professor, who turns into a breast. Yes, "a one-hundred-and-fifty-five-pound mammary gland".

"The Breast" is awfully dated. Dated to the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and the mumbo jumbo of the psychoanalytic frenzy of these times. Professor Kepesh is a dedicated observer of his bodily functions and psychological states. As a breast, he struggles with intense erotic desires and is totally focused on the pleasures of his body. His girlfriend, Claire, sucks at his nipple, but he yearns for "orgasmic finale to [his] excitement". So very Sixties, idiotic stuff.

Mr. Roth gives us a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" when he mentions Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and Gogol's "The Nose". Then we have allusions to Swift, and a wonderful poem by Rilke is quoted. As if mentioning the famous works of literary art that inspired this novella could elevate it to greatness. Professor Kepesh says "I have out-Kafkaed Kafka." No, sir. You definitely have not. This is a mediocre effort.

Two stars.

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