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Sabbath's Theater


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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 twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He 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." Roth received PEN's two most prestigious awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. He died in 2018.


Roth's National Book Award-winning novel is a hilarious, beautifully written spoof about an aging puppeteer who finds himself rudderless when the death of his mistress, Drenka, effectively removes the driving force of his life: sex. Mickey Sabbath, now resigned to preparing for his own death, toasts all of the formerly significant figures in his life, including his first wife, who walked out on him; his mother, who was consumed by the death of Mickey's older brother during the war; and the nubile Drenka, whose appeal for Mickey's sexual fealty shortly before her death falls upon deaf ears. David Dukes reads this rip-roaring tale with a sensitivity that complements Roth's well-wrought prose. Recommended for all serious fiction collections, but advise your patrons to listen with the car windows up and the volume down.‘Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"

Those who feel that Roth's last few novels, brilliant as they often were, have been excessively cerebral and self-referential, can relax at the prospect of his latest. For this is Roth in full sardonic, outrageous cry‘a sort of Portnoy for a later generation, gonads miraculously intact, but with an overlay of hard-won wisdom, celebration and regret. Mickey Sabbath is an elderly relic of the diabolical young puppeteer who was once arrested for coaxing a young Columbia student's breast out of her blouse with the sheer effrontery of his insinuating performing fingers. Now, living in obscure poverty in New Hampshire with a wife who's in aggressive recovery from the alcoholism to which he has driven her, he is reviewing his life‘and continuing to act on his remarkable principles, which exemplify what one of his few remaining friends calls ``a remarkable panegyric for obscenity.'' He has had a deliriously erotic relationship with Drenka, the concupiscent wife of a local Yugoslavian innkeeper, and her sudden death from cancer quite undoes him. His involvement with a student at a college where, unwisely, he had been hired to teach theater arts led to an erotic phone-sex tape that is being widely bootlegged; and when he goes to New York to attend the funeral of an old colleague, he ransacks the dresser drawers of his indulgent host's teenage daughter, reveling in her saucy underthings and seeking the risqué Polaroids he knows all young girls keep somewhere; he also does his best to seduce the man's wife. Not, one would think, a sympathetic subject, and at first Mickey's overwhelming misanthropy and obsessive eroticism make the reader uneasy. Soon, however, Roth's insidious skill at deeply involving the reader in a seemingly alien world begins to work its magic. Mickey's memories of the death of his cherished older brother in WWII and his growing up on the Jersey shore; a visit he pays to a centenarian uncle; and the way he picks out a grave in the ratty Jewish cemetery where his family is laid‘these are passages that could only be the work of a master novelist, profoundly funny, poignant and human. By the time Mickey has said goodbye to Drenka, in one of the most moving‘and perverse‘deathbed scenes in literature, then been arrested by her policeman son for lovingly urinating on her grave, it is clear there is nothing Roth cannot accomplish‘and somehow turn into a seriocomic affirmation. This is a book that will shock and delight in equal measure, the summit of a remarkable literary career. Major ad/promo. (Sept.)

"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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