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Registered User Guest. Log out. Grace-to-You Grace-to-You. Play Audio. Play via Sermon App. This article is also available and sold as a booklet. Buy the Booklet. Print PDF Email. Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource. Publisher Information. Download MP3. In Colossians , Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance Christ has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase "a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar cf.
If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word "Sabbath? Since we are now under the New Covenant Hebrews 8 , we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week Acts Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.
There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council Acts 15 , they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them. In Galatians , Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days including the Sabbath.
In Romans , Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath these were no doubt Jewish believers to condemn those who do not Gentile believers. The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week Sunday was the day when Christians should meet for worship contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath.
Rather the Lord's Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord Hebrews He wrote, There were three reasons for giving this [fourth] commandment: First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest, whereby believers must cease from their own works in order to let the Lord work in them.
For further study, see D. Carson, ed. Change Book:. Dynamic Resources Magazine. Read it Online. Be Part of the Family. Learn more. Stand With Us. Filter: Everything Library Store. A bunch of us, including Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love oy vey , called him on this ridiculous claim because, hey, our life rocks!
We write books! Roth should stop the silly moaning and groaning about his privileges. I get all the fuss about this too. You will die doing it. It will kill you. You will die an ugly death. Philip Roth, I will mourn you. I will mourn your death. Now, I feel like I get it.
This book is, in short, an outrage! Let me just tell you some of my wild, unrehearsed thoughts. The book is—have no illusions—pornographic. Sometimes it works. This book grossed me out, though. In fact, when I told my perv husband that the book was a bit much for me and he asked me to show it to him—more like this: he made a grab for it—I snatched it away. Not gonna happen. Not now. Not ever. The book is gross. So how should you read it?
Or should you read it at all? Here are some miscellaneous thoughts on this amazing book. This book is tragic.
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Existentialist man, alone. What does a man without a god really look like? This is a deeply sad picture of a human without any meaning in his life whatsoever. Dear God. I have to be honest: this is why I will highly recommend this book. I blushed! I flushed! Okay, I beamed with you-know-what!
But Roth? That man takes wincing candor to new heights. In short, Roth exposes the heart of human darkness in breathtaking candor, and you might want to read it. Those girls have no clue what real bad boys are like. Roth has written about the real bad boy and, trust me, none of us silly girls would want anything to do with him. Roth is smarter than us.
You want to see what a real bad boy is like? Go here. Real bad boys are gross. There is this part of me that thinks that anyone capable of writing this is probably a vile human being. Of course, I thought that when I first read Nabokov too. For anyone to delve so deeply into this kind of depravity, suffering is not so far off. A privileged life of sorrow? You know, this book—interestingly enough—is similar to my all-time favorite book in the world, The Catcher in the Rye.
Both books are about protagonists with dead brothers. These deaths were woven into their beings—intrinsic to their experiences in the world, coloring everything. What a fascinating contrast to make: Holden Caulfield and Mickey Sabbath! Mostly—make no bones about it—this book is about man without God.
Where does it lead, after all? Like American Pastoral, this book ends perfectly. How can one read Philip Roth without being infected? So there are other questions. How will you be infected? Is it worth it? For what end? For myself, the answer is in the wincing candor. He gets so close to the soul, so close indeed. View all 3 comments. May 13, Steven Godin rated it it was amazing Shelves: postmodern-fiction , america.
This is Roth's masterpiece and one of the best books I have read, morbidly funny, disturbing ,and at times deeply touching, Mickey Sabbath is one hell of a creation and has the behaviour of a complete perverted lunatic one minute and a caring, tender and quite sad person the next. Told in flashback sequences and the present day, mainly focusing on his troubled relationship with both wife and mistress, with moments from his days as a puppeteer in New York.
What grabs me is how things can be prett This is Roth's masterpiece and one of the best books I have read, morbidly funny, disturbing ,and at times deeply touching, Mickey Sabbath is one hell of a creation and has the behaviour of a complete perverted lunatic one minute and a caring, tender and quite sad person the next. What grabs me is how things can be pretty distasteful and rude but always with meaning not just for the sake of it.
The balance between the comic and the tender is spot on, Roth pulls it off so well. I guess it feels like a tragic-comedy but is so much more than that. Moments in the last third of reading were really heart rendering. View 1 comment. Dec 24, Kirk rated it it was ok Shelves: stinks-like-a-hog. Part of my issue with it, I think, is that Roth hasn't really worried about form or plot in ageshis novels unfold now as dramatic monologues, episodic and without any real drive.
As a result, there's a distance between the reader and the action that can make the reading a bit of a slog. With a capital W even. I also think it's a generational difference. For Roth and other Silent Generation writers, the idea of sex as liberation was indeed revolutionary. They were throwing off those cliched shackles of repression. But when sex is Roth's entire subject, his basic thesis is that desire is the one thing we have to strike out against death with, and that point gets a little old, especially when it's so literally demonstrated that the hero Micky decides to masturbate over the grave of his dead lover.
No, seriously, he does View all 14 comments. Jan 15, William2 rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction , ce , do-not-own , us. Non-stop, rebarbative descriptions of the sex act in a graveyard. An awful slog. For me, Roth is one of those hot or cold authors. This one left me stone cold. Hey, if you're looking for masturbatory fodder, this is your novel. I happen not to be. Certainly the first two here are masterpieces.
View all 12 comments. Jun 27, Matthew McCarthy rated it it was amazing. Some people will not be able to make it past the first 20 pages before they set the book down, go take a cold shower, and watch some Disney classic. Others who make it past the first 20 pages, may drop off after 70 pages. This novel reminds me of seeing people go to a cinema, watch the first half hour of a movie, then see them sneak out before halfway. Because Mickey Sabbath -- the novel's libidinous antihero -- is quite possibly one of the most unlikeable characters created in the fiction in the past 20 years.
Sabbath makes Humbert Humbert seem like Sesame Street. However, it may take a certain type of reader to finish Sabbath's Theater, and another kind to enjoy it -- I guess I fall into the latter. While the novel's sexual perversity at times is extremely distasteful, and Roth's character is a complete misogynist -- controlling women like his puppet's in his Indecent Theater -- this novel is strikingly brilliant.
While the novel may seem as a cry of sexual frustration during the onset of old age, Roth offers an amazing meditation on loss, as Sabbath and others lose control as death begins to surround them, and how the human race as a whole is imperfect and disgusting; as others hide this, Sabbath embraces it as he tears down social norms, antagonizing all around him to find a meaning in life; a reason to continue -- yet what does he find? Extremely hard book to recommend, while probably my favourite Roth novel yet.
Jul 11, [P] rated it really liked it. Philip Milton Roth is the one author, more than any other, who has been accused consistently of objectifying women, of misogyny, of pornography. His critics claim that he is guilty of creating female characters who exist solely as sex objects. While I have not read his entire oeuvre, in terms of what I have read I think this is bogus, that his female characters are not empty vessels [they have jobs, have opinions, have forceful personalities etc].
In any case, I believe that sexism is levelled a Philip Milton Roth is the one author, more than any other, who has been accused consistently of objectifying women, of misogyny, of pornography. For example, consider The Fappening , which was the name given to the release of 's of self-shot, homemade 'sexy' pictures of female celebrities. The reaction to this event ought to have been something of an eye-opener for Roth's critics: thousands, millions probably, of dudes looking at, searching for, discussing etc, a bunch of pictures of naked women.
And women? All around the world, every day, they are happily taking these pictures, allowing themselves to be objectified [a word I use without negative connotations]. Yes, even celebrities are doing it. Am I saying stealing personal pictures is ok? No, of course not. It is legally, and morally, wrong. My point is this: how can one read Philip Roth and complain about his obsession with his dick or his female characters when we live in the world we live in?
These characters like sex, do dirty things, are sometimes objectified, and sometimes enjoy being objectified, and people, feminists, accuse him of being sexist. They say: this is not real women! Now, before anyone loses their shit, I am not at all claiming that all women, all the time, want to be sexualised, simply that, in what we will call consensual circumstances [which is always what Roth dealt with], women, as far as my experience goes, do, y'know, enjoy sex, want sex, talk about sex, and like being viewed sexually, and that, actually, there is fuck all wrong with that.
And, well, how then can one, in the face of all this, denounce Philip Roth's work? Is he part of 'the problem' or just telling the truth? Most men have to fit fucking in around the edges of what they define as more pressing concerns: the pursuit of money, power, politics, fashion, Christ knows what it might be. In any case, Mickey Sabbath is deliberately grotesque, deliberately over-the-top; he is Shakespearean in proportion — he is a Richard III or Hamlet; Mickey is a man on the edge, tormented by the loss of his lover, who was apparently quite some sack artist, and petrified of the prospect of not being able, at his age, to replace her.
At least on the most superficial level. Like Ahab, another Shakespearean character, ex-puppeteer Mickey Sabbath is fighting against some large, terrible foe: old age and, ultimately, death. Again, as with Ahab, it is a one-sided battle; old age and death, like the whale, care nothing about Sabbath: they are indiscriminate. For Sabbath his virility is so important because the loss of it would signal that he is over the hill. Once you understand this it throws the Drenka passages into a new, sharper focus; was she really some nymphomaniac, shit-hot sack artist, or is that how Mickey must remember, and imagine, her in order to console himself that he at least once had something, someone, ideal?
Or is it simply that memory is often sadistic, that, without you realising it, it recreates, reinvents, your experiences with greater intensity than they ever actually had, so that the sad times become sadder, the happy become happier and so on? For example, even if you want to justify the Drenka passages as I have done in the previous paragraph they still, undeniably, ought to have been edited, cut down; far from being shocking, much of the time they are simply boring, are too repetitious. That is not, for me, a problem, however. I like the passion, the drive, the devil-may-care attitude towards literary conventions, the disregard for what readers might want from a novel.
Roth did not care to write the perfect novel [he tried that with The Ghost Writer ], he wanted to punch you firmly between the eyes, he wanted to rub your nose, in this instance, in the dirt. Maybe that is why he rates it so highly.
Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
And yet, in a way, we should all admire, rather than loathe, Mickey Sabbath, for he is a man who, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, is raging against the dying of the light, he is someone who categorically will not go gentle into that good night. Jun 20, Joeji rated it really liked it Recommends it for: People who find literary sexual jokes funny, aging puppeteers. The number one complaint against anything that Philip Roth writes is his treatment of women. I would just like to say that Roth's men aren't exactly shining examples of human virtue.
Is Roth a Man-sogynist? The truth is that Roth's characters can be grotesque and still garner readerly sympathy. I just want to put that one out there-I am not disputing that his books are not somewhat placed in a "male gaze" and that his textual treatment of women can be hard to take, but Roth is not Bret Easton El The number one complaint against anything that Philip Roth writes is his treatment of women. I just want to put that one out there-I am not disputing that his books are not somewhat placed in a "male gaze" and that his textual treatment of women can be hard to take, but Roth is not Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.
He has often made it his goal to depict humans no matter what group they may or may not belong to. His other greatest criticism is that he writes badly about the Jews, to which Roth replies, "Well, can't Jews be bad too? After recovering from a bout of crippling depression, Roth found Sabbath's Theater an enormously fun undertaking. He felt free to write in a way he hadn't felt in years.
It shows. Sabbath's Theater is a cauldron of literary mimicry and allusion, mixed with a healthy dose of sexual perversion. Often the two overlap: "Behold! The arrow of desire! The middle section is punctuated with a very Ulysses -like stream of consciousness. Mickey makes puns of Dostoyevsky's name. My point is that this is a very literary book. I am not going to say that "beneath the rough dirty surface lies blah blah blah blah blah Everything literature, sex, history, language, etc.
If you are going to read it, just allow Sabbath's Theater do what it does best. Be horrified. Be sympathetic. Celebrate when you recognize an allusion. Enjoy Roth at his most free. May 07, Gonzo rated it it was amazing. This is a wonderful book. Before reading it, I never really thought Roth compared to Pynchon for the title of greatest living novelist. After reading Sabbath's Theater, it is clear that Roth deserves a place not only next to Pynchon, but next to the all-time American greats. This is a very funny book, but every page of it is oozing with death and misery and pain.
That Roth is able to pull this off is astounding, and puts him in the same league as Melville and Faulkner as a writer of great comic This is a wonderful book. That Roth is able to pull this off is astounding, and puts him in the same league as Melville and Faulkner as a writer of great comic darkness.
One of the first impressions one has when reading Sabbath's Theater is how unlike any other Roth book it is. Other reviewers have noted that much of the book deals with the perennial Roth topics of sexual perversion, adultery, New Jersey, Jewishness, etc. Mickey Sabbath may share a family tree with Alex Portnoy, Kepesh, and Zuckerman, but whereas these characters are all brothers, Sabbath is the black sheep cousin no one really wants to see at the reunion.
In Sabbath, Roth breaks down the stern intellect that shields the impulses of even his most libidinous characters. When looking at the result, one can either see Roth's most unendurable lout, or a character who functions as unadulterated id, and allows Roth the greatest freedom to explore the topics that have been his obsession throughout his career: Sex, death, relationship, etc.
It is easy to condemn Mickey Sabbath as a sick old man--the book will be unreadable to you in this case--but if you can accept Mickey for the cauldron of joy, misery, hate, and love that he is, you will be rewarded with Roth's most exhilarating work. It is clear that Roth was influenced by Updike, especially the last two novels of the Rabiit tetrad, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest. In fact, when describing Sabbath's Theater, Roth has said he was at his "most free" in writing the novel, the same term he used to describe John Updike's Rabbit books go to YouTube to check out the interview with Roth, in which he describes his admiration for the late Updike.
Both Rabbit and Sabbath are inveterate cheaters; both hate thier wives; both run away from their problems rather than facing them; both men's irresponsibility has been the cause of the deaths of family members and loved ones. At the funeral of his mistress, Rabbit tells the grieving husband that he'll miss his wife, "She was a great lay.
You get what I'm saying. What makes Sabbath a far greater creation than Rabbit is his intelligence. When Rabbit thinks back on the past, about all he can think of are his basketball glory days, and the various tragedies that occurred in previous books. Sabbath has at his fingertips not only his fair share of personal tragedies, but Shakespeare too.
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Listening to Sabbath's ruminations is just simply a richer experience than listening to Rabbit's. When Rabbit mourns the loss of his dead daughter, he is only able to recite her name; when Sabbath mourns his lost wife, he is able to summon King Lear carrying Coredelia onto the stage, crying "Thou'lt come no more. Similarly, Sabbath has interesting things to say about politics, about feminism, about free speech and class divides. Rabbit just isn't interesting in comparison. When compared to Sabbath, Rabbit comes off almost as one of the sources Shakespeare used for Hamlet or Macbeth; and while the ur-Hamlet is superficially similar to the finished Shakespearean one, the overall effect made by the characters is barely comparable.
Beyond their differences in intelligence, it is much harder not to care for Sabbath than it is for Rabbit. Reading the Rabbit books, it is hard to empathize with Harry, no matter how recognizable his plight. This owes not so much to a difference between the characters, but in the fact that Updike is not as adept as Roth in making us feel for Rabbit. Updike often allows us to go long stretches really, all of Rabbit is Rich where Rabbit's only pain comes from the fact that he is too rich and undersexed or is it oversexed?
Roth never lets us stray far from Sabbath's pain. Sabbath may be a slave to his libido and many unsavory personal traits, but he is also beholden to his own staggering anguish: His dead brother is constantly on his mind, his mother's ghosts swirls around the car as he drives, his dead lover's words are forever ringing in his ear. Sabbath may be unadulterated id, but his gift for feeling pleasure also makes him feel pain more acutely.
We feel right along with him when his long-suffering mother is urging him to commit suicide, and when he believes he may have met a long-lost daughter. This effect keeps us from seeing Sabbath as a wholly mean-spirited SOB, and as more of a acerbic jokester who is only pricking back at the shots life has taken at him. Judged by his actions, Sabbath may be as deplorable as they come, but when we are alongside him on his journey, we are able to understand his cruelty and empathize with his hurt.
Sabbath's Theater also features what is admittedly rare in Roth's works--a very interesting and likeable female character in Drenka. I read an article I think it was Entertainment Weekly claiming that all the women in Sabbath's Theater were either mothers or whores. This is a despicable thing to say, and it makes you wonder how much of the alleged misogyny in Roth's works is more a symptom of his critics' nasty prejudices rather than any statement of his own.
Drenka is a strong, intelligent, and beautiful woman. She provides a perfect contrast for Sabbath; she is the one person in the world intelligent enough to avoid being one of Sabbath's puppets. She loves Sabbath and he loves her. It seems to shock some readers to find that this love between two adults should express itself through sex--and adulterous, kinky sex at that--but again, this says more about the readers than Roth's alleged perversions.
It is a shame that so many people seem to miss the great love story in this book. Sabbath adores Drenka.
Feast Days and Sabbaths
Their relationship is playful, even when Sabbath plays tricks on her I just read an NPR article suggesting that Mickey's fooling her into saying "nuts and bulbs" was an instance of his cruelty; this completely misses the point, not only of the book but of romantic relationships! Sabbath and Drenka's affair is the greatest romantic relationship Roth has yet created. It is a shame that more people cannot appreciate the relationship, not only because of the its beauty, but because it is their love which provides the center of the book. There is something to be said about Roth's failure to write convincing female characters.
My Life as a Man, for instance, suffers from the fact that Maureen Tarnopol is too weakly drawn to provide a convincing antagonist for her husband. This is not the case in Sabbath's Theater, where Drenka provides a compelling and convincing female lead who drives the book. In a pure aesthetic sense, the book is a masterpiece. The mournful comedic tone that Roth sustains is amazing. Roth's prose can range from the nearly prosaic in the Zuckerman novels to the manic think Portnoy ; the prose here is just energized enough to make each sentence lively while still bearing the load of Sabbath's constant death obsession.
Roth really is underrated as a prose stylist, especially when compared to more flashy writers like Pynchon or Updike. But where Updike would often take fairly egregious breaks for a page-long stream-of-consciousness sentence, or a long string of one-word paragraphs, Roth is able to sustain a consistent and compelling prose without such maneuvers which, frankly, can seem like smoke and mirrors when not used correctly.
There may be no better case of a prose that, per Hemingway, is honest and true than that which Roth sustains in this book.
In conclusion, this is a brilliant book. As mentioned above, the decadence of libertine Sabbath's personality and the frankness of the book's sexuality may keep readers away, but it is their great loss. For readers who who want to preapre themselves for Sabbath's Theater, I would recommend reading the Rabbit books, and perhaps a mix of early Roth works such as Portnoy's Complaint or My Life as a Man in order to get used to the frank sexuality and the unsavory protagonists.
But make no doubt that this is a great book. But it will pay you back in droves. View 2 comments. May 11, Shane rated it liked it. Portnoy is a boy scout romp compared to this book which is a dark celebration of the life force embodied in the sexual drive. Mickey Sabbath is a 64 year old ex-puppeteer, unemployed and broke, yet virile as ever, grieving the death of his lifelong lover Drenka who had an insatiable sexual appetite, one stoked by Mickey and unleashed upon the world until it consumed her and left him bereft.
Sabbath has plunged into a depression with her death and flees his recovering alcoholic wife, Roseanne— someone with whom he once also enjoyed a vibrant sex life, before things cooled—to visit his past, before intending to commit suicide. And yet, his life force is so strong, his lust for carnality so vibrant, that suicide is a tough sell.
And now you reap the lonely harvest. No act is too shameful or private to be revealed. It is almost as if Roth wants to grind us down into our basest instincts, into the piss, shit and sweat of human stain, making us acknowledge what we are capable of even though we choose to gloss over them, or even deny them, while elevating this activity to art. Thus we have acts of phone sex, polyamory, urination, masturbation, fetishism, and necrophilia that go on for pages, written in energetic and frenetic prose that elevate it from formulaic erotica.
The sardonic humour that drips from the stream-of-consciousness sentences and situations Sabbath gets into help soften the pungency and differentiates the narrative from pornography. But, like Sabbath, Roth is skating on pretty thin ice here. Shall we take this up another notch? This is as high as you will ride this gig. That Mickey Sabbath is an unforgettable character, a villain with a conscience and an uncontrollably frisky penis, is never in question. Mar 27, Cathal Kenneally rated it really liked it. Perverse and falling in places.
This book is not for the faint hearted. Very descriptive passages about sex, masturbation and melancholic overtones from the main character. I think Molly Bloom from Joyce's Ulysses may have been in mind while writing this book. I think James Joyce would love to have read this.
It has a certain shock factor for people who don't normally read this sort of thing. I am not going to start a semantic discussion on what is pornographic and what just is explicit writing more or less functional to the story; I suspect that Roth himself scrupulously opted for the former, and so we must not be faint about that. But to be honest,- of course it depends on what you are used to -, every now and then, reading 'Sabbath's Theatre', I really had to swallow my apologies for the too obvious pun.
In a superficial reading of the book you see main character Mickey Sabbath, a year-old former puppeteer, just as a sex addict, as a pervert: he can't get enough of his mistress, the year younger nymphomaniac Drenka, of Croatian descent, and even apart from that, he dreams permanently of trios, he has phone sex with young girls, he gets a kick touching the underwear of the daughter of his best friend, and so on.
He is shocked and unbalanced by the death of his mistress Drenka, and then we discover that earlier on he has been traumatized by the early death of his brother Morty, the death of his mother with whom he still talks permanently , and by the sudden disappearance of his first wife Nicky. Gradually you get to see that the sex addiction of Sabbath essentialy is an intense attempt to live, born out of the existential feeling of deprivation and loss, and permanently stimulated by a flight for death.
During the reading of the book I regularly was reminded of Leopold Bloom, the also Jewish main character of James Joyce in Ulysses: just as Sabbath Bloom is portrayed by Joyce as a man of small proportion, but eventually representative of men in general, like an Elckerlyc. The picaresque novel in the tradition of Apuleius, Rabelais and numerous others is not really my favorite kind of literature, but in this genre this book is a 20th Century masterpiece! The power and force is brutal. First and foremost the work seems to be a well-articulated attack on commitment and fidelity; marriage and marital life.
But the philosophy never hurts the strong sense of wonder and curiosity that the reader experiences while discovering the past of Mickey Sabbath. The appeal and suspense never let go. The obscenity and outright immorality of the protagonist is always discovered by other characters in the most shockingly inappropriate ways and thus brings about feelings more varied than just alienation. There is thus a vile, almost vicious effrontery that might disgust many readers.
The narcissistic Sabbath is a middle finger by nature. He is the very same middle finger who got him into trouble. He is in his young days a premature example of a 60s sexual revolutionary. And his sexual rebelliousness outlives the societal changes of the century. Sex seems to be the only thing with which Sabbath manages to cling to his life. And he comes to the understanding that the puppeteer had been life itself all along, and not him. Life is incoherent, and meaningless.
There are two ways to escape this cruel incoherence. Death, and sex. And once again death and carnality merge in one single image in a Roth book. And this time it is even more obscene, and more extreme. An old man jerking off on the grave of his late beloved. An old man urinating on the grave of his late beloved. And when Sabbath is found by the son of the lover, a trooper, he explains to him the religious seriousness of what he has to do on the grave of his lover.
For sex endows life with coherence, just like religion. But unlike in religion, the coherence is not fake. The final scene in which Sabbath is left in the middle of nowhere with no means to kill himself and no one to murder him successfully sums up the absurdity that the whole novel is about. May 02, Lee Davis rated it really liked it Shelves: novels , fiction. Reading this book was an interesting experience. I had just resolved not to let misogyny ruin my enjoyment of the last years of culture, and then Philip Roth comes along.
Apart from the post-middle-age sexual liberation, everything else in the first half of the book had me seething with hatred. The only female character he has any respect for is a woman whose seeming purpose in life is to fulfill every sexual fantasy of the protagonist, a woman so sexually ambitious that she "thinks like a Reading this book was an interesting experience.
The only female character he has any respect for is a woman whose seeming purpose in life is to fulfill every sexual fantasy of the protagonist, a woman so sexually ambitious that she "thinks like a man. He spends the next several hundred pages illustrating this point, imbuing every female character with the most weak and callow and particularly female traits: little girls in grown-up bodies, guilt-ridden, sexually repressed, attached to their victimhood and speaking incessantly in therapy language, looking for a man to blame for all their self-caused suffering.
All this horrifyingly well-written. I spent time thinking of scathing comments to write on Goodreads, and cursing Roth's future grave may its location become public knowledge, may it become a first date destination for teenage hipsters. It's a personal essay on the vagaries of date rape, but this passage about cultural consumption stood out to me: "I was a very PC feminist before the term existed, and, by the measure of my current understanding, my critical rigidity followed from my inability to be responsible for my own feelings.
In this context, being responsible would have meant that I let myself feel whatever discomfort, indignation, or disgust I experienced without allowing those feelings to determine my entire reaction to a given piece of work. In other words, it would have meant dealing with my feelings and what had caused them, rather than expecting the outside world to assuage them.
As horrified as I am by much of Roth's view of women, it's really not his job as an artist to make me feel better about things. He's a genius, and a bully; he can take anyone's pain, invert it with satire, and bludgeon them to death with it. But his critique of feminism is not without several grains of truth, which is why it seemed so threatening to me in the first place.
After reading Gaitskill's essay, I was able to go back to Sabbath's Theater as more of a participant, and see it as a cultural object that I could respond to and critique. Roth has had his moment at a protagonist and a subject, and I had fun making him an antagonist and an object for a while. The antagonist points out your weaknesses, and allows you to test your mettle against him.
The images he created made me angry at first, because I felt they had power over me. By the end of the book, they didn't. I beat this book, and then I beat it again by liking it. The last part, especially, is masterfully written. A Hail Mary that actually makes the main character sympathetic, and the most tender and beautiful description of two people pissing on each other I have ever read. This novel is worth reading just for its lists.
A few of them should be pulled out and taught to creative writing students, because they contain all the elements of prose rhythm in the most pedestrian sort of clause. Here's what I wrote about the novel the first time I read it, when it came out in Roth finally gave up his postmodernism, after taking it beyond its logical extreme in the second half of Operation Shylock: A Confession.
With his self-reflexiveness went most of his self-indulgence, as well, and that's a great relief. Not that Roth returned to his early realism or changed his writing style. But he seems more dynamic than ever, more manic and yet more controlled, finding the perfect balance that has eluded him for years. The only word that sums up this incredible effort is "masterly. The epigraph sets the stage: Prospero's "Every third thought shall be my grave. Many reviewers compare this novel with Portnoy's Complaint, which is fair only in terms of energy.
There it was the energy of youth; here it is an energy that no other writer of Roth's generation, and few writers over 60 of any generation, seem to have: the energy of facing death. It appears that Roth was trying to get as much as he could into his sentences, which often go on and on, but have nothing Proustian about them. It's just that there's so much to say about whatever's being said; Mickey Sabbath is on the edge, about to lose what he has left after having lost so much.
There's no doubt he deserves what he's got, perhaps even more, but mixed in with his satyric character is a life of some pretty hard knocks. He's despicable, as some reviewers have emphasized, but he's also very sympathetic. I think Roth intends him to be a different sort of Everyman, a man in the gutter whom we can identify with if we are willing to keep an open mind and heart.
Perhaps that's what Roth wanted to be difficult about the novel: not the postmodernist game-playing of his recent novels, but the battle not to condemn Sabbath, or to pity him, but to identify with him, to find in ourselves a Sabbath of our own. For most people, there is little that is more difficult. Mar 07, Philip rated it liked it Shelves: jordabecker-book-club , jordabecker-rossa. I am recusing myself from this review. It would not be fair to the book, to myself, or to anyone reading this as a review.
When I brought up the dilemma of reviewing the book at club, there was some interesting debate on the issue. Another member came up with this to help me out: If Odysseus had to rate the Sirens' song - and he was limited to the goodreads 5 star rating scale, what would he give them?
Obviously, the songs were pretty good. Does he give them 5 stars? Would that have upset the other I am recusing myself from this review. Would that have upset the other sailors who had to plug their ears? Would that encourage others who might not have been as cautious as him to sail the waters in search of the Sirens?
Should he have given them 1 star? Would that have been honest? The songs were sung well, but they were also evil - or at least sung with evil intent. And splitting the difference and giving a 3 doesn't seem honest either. In fact, I would argue that it just makes the reviewer look like a coward; indecisive. Yet here we are.
Or could he have made the points he was trying to make some other way? It must have been very freeing for Roth to write Sabbath. True, Sabbath was a slave to his depravity - and once he started, Roth was forced to write him that way if he was to have any integrity. But I maintain that it must have been freeing nonetheless: to say - without apology - what the character really would say.
Of course, we'll never know the answer to that question - and it wouldn't be the same book - so maybe that's your answer right there. I can't recommend the book.