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Sabbath's Theater Hardcover – 5 Oct 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (5 Oct. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224041576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224041577
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,231,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004". Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Product Description


"For me, the book of the year - maybe the decade - is Sabbath's Theater...funny...moving, imaginative, deep... A masterpiece" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Sabbath explodes some mad genie out of his bottle...[Sabbath's Theater] has more firestorming prose than any other novel I have read this year" (Observer)

"In time this will be seen as Roth's best novel so far" (James Wood Guardian, Books of the Year)

"A work of near-heroic vitality and cunning" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Absolutely filthy book with one of the most unpleasantly priapic and desperate anti-heroes in modern literature. A delight" (Nigel Lindsay Daily Express) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'A postwar American masterpiece' - Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the first Philip Roth novel I read, and I haven't been able to read any more since in case none of them are as good. Sabbath's Theater is a dangerous, exhilirating, outrage-inducing read. It demands concentration and engagement, and rewards with an intellectual and emotional honesty rarely found in modern fiction. Mickey Sabbath is by turns profoundly wise, utterly execrable, and uproariously, devilishly, humanly funny. I defy anyone not to feel a guilty elation of recognition at the whole scene of crying and duplicity in Mickey's friend's apartment. The first line of the novel is a masterpiece of an opening - the roaming, desperate energy of the entire book and a landscape view of the plot all crammed into less than ten words. The perfectly crafted shock of the last lines is like a piledriver in the chest. And everything that's in between is a revelation. Whether you're a man or a woman, DO NOT read this book unless you are prepared to be a) offended and outraged, and b) humbled and educated. Or, on the other hand, just read it anyway.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
In Sabbath's Theater, Philip Roth finally showed us he could write a book in which neither Philip Roth nor his thinly-veiled stand-in, Nathan Zuckerman, made an appearance.
The theme of Sabbath's Theater has been done before: a lecherous, unconventional man railing at the ravages of time and the dwindling of the sexual potency by which he has defined his very existence. Most of the time, however, this theme is poorly written, the characters trite and cliched. Roth, not surprisingly, invests this novel with more lyrical energy, more sexual frankness, sharper comedy and deeper seriousness than has any writer before.
Although Roth does make use of both flashback and association, the plot of Sabbath's Theater is brisk. Mickey Sabbath, who went off to sea at the age of eighteen just so he could visit the world's brothels, is a loathsome character. His abiding philosophy of life is simply to do whatever he pleases and never to worry about pleasing anyone else. Nothing phases him, in fact, he seems to take pleasure in his uncanny ability to antagonize others. Their outrage seems to be only a reflection of his own self-worth. Mickey Sabbath manages to hurt, deceive, betray, offend, insult and abuse just about everyone with whom he comes into contact.
A true degenerate, Mickey Sabbath may seem to lack any sense of moral conscience. Although anyone meeting such a character would deny it, Sabbath actually spent an idyllic childhood on the Jersey shore; a childhood that was shattered by a traumatic dual loss. In an effort to deal with his loss and the resultant pain, to stamp out the brutality of life, and, to affirm his own sense of aliveness, Sabbath turns to carnal pleasures with a vengeance, indulging each and every sexual impulse.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F.R. Jameson on 19 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Perhaps it's not the right thing to do, but it's unavoidable that I'll end up comparing the book I'm reading to the one I've just read. And just having had Jonathan Franzen being endlessly worthy with `Freedom', it was a great relief to leap in and find the remaining great old man of American letters, Phillip Roth, be truly scurrilous and bawdy with `Sabbath's Theater'. This - for all its brilliance - is not a book to be taught in schools, or to be spoken about in hushed tones at posh dinner parties as the kind of thing `people' should read. No, for all the excellence of its prose and savagery of language (no one writes like Roth when he's on form), this is a book which wants to get down and dirty, and revel in it.

Mickey Sabbath is a randy old goat, a sex obsessed one-time puppeteer whose hands have been crippled by arthritis. Before the book even begins he's already been involved in a couple of sex scandals (the most recent with one of his pupils who was barely more than a teenager) and now the death of his married mistress has sent him into a tale-spin. Sabbath is off to attack the world, and with his articulate rage and refusal to compromise, no prisoners will be taken.

What really stands out is how ridiculously and rudely funny this book is. Roth is able to derive humour from the most appalling and unappetising situations (for example, who would imagine you could get laughs from descriptions of a sixty-four year old pervert tearing apart the bedroom of the nineteen year old daughter of one of his good friends, just so he can find something to arouse himself with). The character of Sabbath is an emotional whirlwind, someone it would be truly damaging to know, but great to meet on the safe distance of the printed page. The book perhaps lacks some of the focus of the absolute best of Roth, but this is still a rip-roaring ride - although not one I'd recommend as a present to a maiden aunt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 April 2012
Format: Paperback
In his 1995 novel Sabbath's Theater, Philip Roth once again demonstrates that he has few (if any) equals among modern novelists when it comes to the ability to morph profanity into profundity, and, in this work, he does it in such an apparently effortless manner which leaves this reader mightily impressed. In my recollection, not since the days of Henry Miller 60 years ago has a writer produced such an exhilarating and unexpurgated tale of debauchery as does Roth in this magnificent and explosive work. In Roth, we are, of course, talking about the author who achieved global literary notoriety with his similarly extravagant and sexually explicit 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint - a compelling novel in its own right, but one which, for me, Roth has probably surpassed with Sabbath's Theater.

The novel is narrated in flashback by 64-year old ex-puppeteer and (still) sex-obsessed Mickey Sabbath, and takes us (in loving detail) through the fractious and turbulent journey of Sabbath's various lives and loves. Roth is typically uncompromising in creating what is essentially a loathsome hero, one who has embarked on a succession of adulterous relationships, whilst spurning two marriages and apparently betraying just about every friendship that ever came the way of anti-hero Sabbath. But, gradually as the tale unfolds, it becomes apparent that there are facets to this abomination that are not wholly repugnant, none more than Sabbath's underlying maternal love and his hero-worship for his soldier brother Morty, sadly lost fighting the Japanese in 1944 whilst Mickey was still only a teenager.

The concluding sections of the novel, where Mickey negotiates potential sites for his own burial plot and where he happens upon a lost centenarian cousin, thereby finding another route for communicating with the memories of his long-lost brother, are particularly affecting and poignant.
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