Penn State

Benjamin Schreier - Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies, Lea P. and Malvin E. Bank Early Career Professor of Jewish Studies, Interim Head of Jewish Studies, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Sabbath's Theater

Author: Philip Roth

Book Description:

Cure for sentimentality and antitoxin to the imaginatively impoverished expectation that good books affirm the positive identifications of their readers, Sabbath’s Theater is about what makes life and literature irresistible: rage, sex, desire, hate, excess, love, mischief, joy, resentment, ecstasy, abjection, death. Philip Roth has long been one of our great writers of anger, but Sabbath’s Theater is a masterpiece, a tour de force journey across the dirty knife’s edge where knowledge and morality fall away into each other and make each other impossible and inescapable, where life exposes itself as at its core nothing more nor less profound than rage against what it isn’t. Touring the gravestones in a decaying cemetery where he hopes to intern himself, alone and soon, the novel’s titular character realizes that “Nobody beloved gets out alive.” Failed Whitman and Moses manqué, Mickey Sabbath is a haunting, elegiac, agnostic apostrophe to the burning, unconquerable force of life, catastrophically so in the book’s final line: “And he couldn’t do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.”

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