This isn’t a book. This is a complaint. It’s a man, a Jewish man, one of the Chosen People, doing what comes naturally to him. He sits on Dr. Spielvogel’s couch, and he doesn’t talk things out — he weaves a tapestry. People hurt him: his mother, she drives him crazy, drives him to other women that aren’t her; women, to Portnoy, are the root of all pleasure and all pain. He complains about that, that’s what he does, because that’s who he is.
On the cover:
It’s yellow. Yellow is gutless. At first glance, the consumer is taken in by the color; they want to know what’s in between that yellow. But then they look at the title, written in a variant of Caslon Bold. What is Portnoy complaining about? Is it a diet book? A self-help book? Then they open it, flip around a few pages; “I tear off my pants, furiously,” they read. They look around to see if anybody is watching them read. Nobody is, so they continue: “I grab that battered battering ram to freedom, my adolescent cock, even as my mother begins to call from the outside door.” Is this smut? Is this high art? No — it’s yellow.
Ideas for the author bio:
Abraham, Moses, Isaac — you know them from your Sunday school. They were Jews. Did you know Jesus was a Jew? Great men, holy men. Philip Roth is also a Jew. Although he isn’t from Galilee, and he’s no carpenter; he’s from New Jersey. Can you see New Jersey from your window? Of course you can. New Jersey is American. Philip Roth is an American Jew.
“You wanted an excuse to never eat liver again; Portnoy’s Complaint is that excuse.”
“Women. Am I right? That’s Portnoy’s Complaint.”
“Portnoy’s Complaint: as American as Jesus.”