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Sabbath's Theater Paperback – 5 Sep 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099582015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099582014
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A post-war American masterpiece" (Daily Telegraph)

"This is a wickedly splendid book" (Frank Kermode)

"In time this will be seen as Roth's best novel so far" (Guardian)

"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)

Book Description

Reissued in electric new backlist style, Sabbath's Theater is Philip Roth's astounding masterpiece

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Darkly comic and at times quite disgusting, this rumination on sex, death and then more sex told through the eyes of the wonderfully obnoxious Mickey Sabbath, is one of Roth's very best books. Not for the squeamish or the easily offended, but a thoroughly absorbing read; and like all Philip Roth's great novels, you just don't want it to end. If only he did sequels....
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not quite Roth at his very best - but as his very best is very good indeed that still makes this top drawer. As ever his work challenges the reader and pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in contemporary literature. Roth manages to make the protagonist sympathetic despite his many failings and deals openly with the fading sexual prowess of an aging Don Juan in the twilight of his years. Warning! Do not read this book if you are easily offended!
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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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