Sexy Sunday Buddy Read- Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

portnoy's complaint

5 out of 5 Stars

Hello All!! Welcome to the second instalment of Sexy Sunday! This was something planned out by Vanessa at Food in Books and I to be posted on the first Sunday of every month!


The famous confession of Alexander Portnoy, who is thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality, yet held back at the same time by the iron grip of his unforgettable childhood. Hilariously funny, boldly intimate, startlingly candid, Portnoy’s Complaint was an immediate bestseller upon its publication in 1969, and is perhaps Roth’s best-known book.

Portnoy’s Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: ‘Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient’s “morality,” however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.’ (Spielvogel, O. ‘The Puzzled Penis’, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) it is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.

My Thoughts


This is about Alex Portnoy coming to terms with his obsession with sex, and his families short-comings.

There is Alex’s mother, who always doted far too much causing a possible Oedipus complex in the young boy (I must say… I could not picture anyone but Kyle’s mother from South Park every time Alex’s mother opened her mouth!)

kyle's mom.gif

“She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.”

“I think I even feared that I might have to be done away with were I to catch sight of her flying in from school through the bedroom window, or making herself emerge, limb by limb, out of an invisible state and into her apron.”

His mother is definitely a HUGE bone of contention in Alex’s eccentricities and issues. From holding a knife to him when he won’t eat (like it’s normal!)

“From my bed I hear her babbling about her problems to the women at the mah-jongg game: My Alex is suddenly such a bad eater I have to stand over him with a knife. And none of them apparently finds this tactic of hers at all excessive. I have to stand over him with a knife! And not one of those women gets up from the mah-jongg table and walks out of her house! Because, in their world, that is the way it is with bad eaters- you have to stand over them with a knife!”

To locking him out of the house if he does wrong.

Then, there is Alex’s father, Jack, or as Alex refers to him (at 5 years old) “the man who lives with us at night and on Sunday afternoon’s” who works so hard he is always stressed and constipated,

“And how did my father take all this? He drank-of course, not whiskey like a goy, but mineral oil and milk of magnesia; and chewed on Ex-Lax; and ate All-Bran morning and night; and downed mixed dried fruits by the pound bag. He suffered-did he suffer!-from constipation. Her ubiquity and his constipation, my mother flying through the bedroom window, my father reading the evening paper with a suppository up his ass… these, Doctor, are the earliest impressions I have of my parents, of their attributes and secrets.”

I have never heard so many mentions of bowels in a book!!


“You, did you move your bowels?” she asked him.

“Of course I didn’t move my bowels.”

“Jack, what is it going to be with you, with those bowels?”

“They’re turning into concrete, that’s what it’s going to be.”

“Because you eat too fast.” 

“I don’t eat too fast.”

“How then, slow?”

“I eat regular.”

“You eat like a pig, and somebody should tell you.”

Alex’s poor sister Hannah, who is not really even in the book, even though the entire book is based on his family! She’s almost like a ghost who everyone has forgotten about most of the time,

“She lifts Hannah (of all people, Hannah!), who until that moment I had never really taken seriously as a genuine object to anyone’s love, takes her up into her arms and starts kissing her all over her sad and unloved face, saying that her little girl is the only one in the whole world she can really trust.”

“I can’t help it if you’re fat and “sluggish” and I’m skinny and brilliant.”

No wonder Alex was a little…….. different? In his sexuality, with family like this!

“I once cored an apple, saw to my astonishment (and with the aid of my obsession) what it looked like, and ran off into the woods to fall upon the orifice of the fruit. pretending that the cool and mealy hole was actually between the legs of that mythical being who always called me Big Boy when she pleaded for what no girl in all recorded history had ever had. “Oh, shove it in me, Big Boy,” cried the cored apple that I banged silly on that picnic. “Big Boy, Big Boy, oh give me all you’ve got,” begged the empty milk bottle that I kept hidden in our storage bin in the basement, to drive wild after school with my vaselined upright. “Come, Big Boy, come” screamed the maddened piece of liver that, in my own insanity, I bought one afternoon at a butcher shop and, believe it or not, violated behind a billboard on the way to a bar mitzvah lesson.”

american pie.gif

I know, you’re all thinking “Nicole…. why?? Why always with the weird books?!” Well, first of all, this month’s book was chosen by Vanessa!!! And, secondly, IT REALLY IS BRILLIANT! 

The characters are so flawed and authentic, which is funny to say because they almost seem like charicatures…while at the same time, so real! It is funny and honest and if you can get over the overt sexuality, the messed up relationship between him and his mother, and an excessive use of the C-Word (AND I DON’T MEAN CANCER!), I can’t recommend this book enough!!! Honestly, I’m sorry for how long this review was (Yes, I admit that this one WAS long, Shalini!) But, I had to cut so much out of it, that’s how much I have to say on this book!!

Now be sure to head over to Food in Books and see what Vanessa thought of this book, and what wonderful food she paired it with!!


Portnoy’s Complaint is Best Served with a Mazel Tov Cocktail


I got the idea for this drink here at Forward


  • 1 part simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves and then cooled)
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 4 parts vodka
  • Sparkling rosé


  1. Combine first four ingredients and chill. Pour into glasses and top with about ¾ of an inch of sparkling rosé.
  2. CHEERS!!


61 thoughts on “Sexy Sunday Buddy Read- Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Add yours

  1. I was about to go eat some food, but I figured I saw a new post from you, so I would read that first. Then I came upon the paragraph about the bowels…pretty safe to say that I’m going to wait a bit before planning some dinner.
    Also…I don’t think I will ever look at apples quite the same anymore either.😂😂 Also, I really like long reviews so I don’t mind either way (but I will be the first to admit that this is a really weird sounding book lol 😂😂).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha! DEFINTITELY a strange book! But, it’s funny, honest and well written. I love Jewish humour. I have a friend who’s mom is CONVINCED that I am her Jewish daughter separated from her at birth. Ha ha! So, this book was right in my wheelhouse! 😉😂😂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha, really had to laugh at that lol😂😂 Well, who knows it might be true, one can never tell for sure 😳😳(unless you already had a DNA test done, that is….😅😅). Well, I love reading these reviews for these strange books, so I say, keep them coming😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m still working on mine so I can’t take the time. l
        LOL! Just kidding, your review is awesome. I think you liked the book far more than I did. You’re far more sympathetic to Alexander than I’m going to be. 🤣🍎🍏

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, DEFINITELY NOT sympathetic!! That boy was MESSED UP! The whole thing with his mother’s menstrual blood and stockings…… AT FIVE YEARS OLD?? He’s got some Issues (with a capital I) but, I didn’t want any of my readers to feel shamed if that’s their bag! Also, the book was really well written and FUNNY!! (And SUPER weird..)…. So, pretty much the perfect book for me! 😘😅🤣🤣🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sound definetly weird, but like the good kind of weird. The weird with a good story in the background and bones of the story. A bit like ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’, it was shocking in it’s time, but it is also a beautiful story about love. Is that true or is it mainly shock factor? Great review anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d like it! It had a very Christopher Moore kind of voice to it, but based a LITTLE more in reality! I could just HEAR it being narrated by Fisher Stevens!!
      I actually left out the simple syrup with the second one I made. Ha ha! I kept the lemon and lime because I love my citrus, but j didn’t need the extra sweet with the rose that I used! 👍🥂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just recently read Portnoy’s Complaint for the first time myself, and had much the same reaction!! 😂 The dude is clearly struggling under the weight of his emotional/sexual baggage, but damn it was a funny and engaging read. And your choice of cocktail is perfect!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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