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Sabbath's Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero. Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Sabbath at sixty-four is still defiantly antagonistic and exceedingly libidinous. But after the death of his long-time mistress—an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring surpassed even his own—Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past. Bereft and grieving, besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most, he contrives a succession of farcical disasters that take him to the brink of madness and extinction.
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Mickey Sabbath, the hero in Sabbath's Theater, the winner of the 1995 National Book Award, makes a concerted effort to be bad. Like Alexander Portnoy, the famously self-abusing character in Roth's 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint, Sabbath has an appetite for "acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus." But while Portnoy's antics were usually comical and liberating, Sabbath often feels imprisoned by his own acts of self-indulgence. Though his frantic pursuit of sex is a desperate attempt to abate his anxieties about death, it only serves to obliterate any semblance of real life he could have had.From the Back Cover:
"A great work . . . Roth's richest, most rewarding novel . . . funny and profound . . . as powerful as writing can be." —The New York Times Book Review
"This splendidly wicked book . . . is among the most remarkable novels in recent years. . . . The energy of the book is amazing.... Roth is hilariously serious about life and death." —Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books
"Roth's extraordinary new novel is an astonishment and a scourge, and one of the strangest achievements of fictional prose that I have ever read. . . . It is very exquisite." —James Wood, New Republic
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