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Flatbush Flashback

Port Noise Complaint

I mentioned in yesterday's post, "Old School", how Portnoy's Complaint had blown my mind at "a tender age." As Philip Roth's 80th birthday is March 19, the tale of how this happened bears repeating. I originally told the story in my interview with Kendra Holliday of The Beautiful Kind, when she asked me about my influences as writer, and I said that Roth was among my "Holy Trinity" of influences. Here's the story:

As for Philip Roth, whom I also quote at the beginning of Beaver Street, no book has ever blown my mind the way that Portnoy's Complaint did when I read it at 16. My aunt had gotten the book through a book-of-the-month club. We were visiting her in New Jersey one day, and she's telling my parents about this disgusting book that she wants to get out of the house. I'm listening to the conversation, and I think she's saying "Port Noise Complaint," which sounds like a boring book about people complaining about foghorns and squawking seagulls. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Anyway, she gives the book to my parents, and a couple of days later I'm sitting at my desk, doing homework. I look up at the bookshelf, and the title catches my eye. Oh, PORTNOY'S Complaint. So I start reading it, and by the time I got to the chapter called "Whacking Off," I understood why everybody in the world was talking about it.

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