Old men behaving badly
Morality, mortality and masculinity in Sabbath’s Theater
in Philip Roth
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In an ‘interview with [him]self’ on The Great American Novel in 1973 (reprinted in Reading Myself and Others), Philip Roth recalls how he came upon a letter from Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which Melville describes his elation upon completing Moby Dick. In a feature on Roth published on the eve of the publication of Portnoy's Complaint, Albert Goldman traced the origins of the novel to the childhood larks of Roth and his peers. This chapter discusses Roth's treatment of morality, mortality and masculinity in what it considers to be his masterpiece, Sabbath's Theater (1995), comparing it with a short story by Stanley Elkin and a novel by Howard Jacobson that share many of its themes.

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