_Crimes of the Heart_

More Southern Drawly Drama.

This story is basically funny, but if you only look at what actually happens you wouldn’t think it was. But the family, and the way they handle the problems that come their way make it comedy.

The action starts on Lenore’s birthday. Her sister Babe is just being released from prison, because she shot her husband in the stomach. The oldest sister has come back from her failed starry singing career in Hollywood to help out the family. The family tragedy, one that happened years before, is that their mother committed suicide, hanging herself and their pet cat in the basement. All these things are definitely the makings of tragedy.

But it doesn’t turn out like that. The sisters are so funny–the way they interact and bicker! They do foolish things, but they are very good-hearted about it.

They bring up the subject of their mother’s death, and wonder why she did it. The only thing they can come up with is that “She had a really bad day.” Towards the end, they decide that they have got to figure out how to get through the really bad days.

The sibling interaction alone makes this worth seeing.

_Portnoy’s Complaint_

This novel by Philip Roth is number 52 on the “Top 100 best English language novels of the 20th century.” I’ve talked about this list before, and I’d said how I’ve read a number of them already.

I hadn’t read Portnoy’s, although I’d read another more recent Roth novel, The Human Stain.

That one was really good. Interesting characters, challenging themes, plot twists, all good stuff. I figured I would like Portnoy too.

Mm. Portnoy’s Complaint came out in ’67. I think the author has matured quite alot by the time he got to Human Stain.

Intresting how there are some similar themes: Female who is illiterate, Jewishness, Racism, Sex.

But PC positively reeks of the sixties. I think, what with the sexual revolution and all that, the on-going topic of masturbation was much more compelling than it is now. And I guess all of Portnoy’s sexual exploits were supposed to be deviant and shocking.

Gotta tell ya, they just aren’t anymore. Other than his obsession with choking his chicken as an adolescent, his main sexual sin seems to be fulfilling his fantasy of sleeping with two women at once.


This is regular prime-time fare in the naughty aughts. What shocked in the 60s is discussed around the dinner table this side of the 20th century.

I found his resentment of his family to be a far more interesting story line. And his Jewishness. Ethnic distinctions have also faded in importance by now, but it is interesting to remember how important they used to be.

I’m glad that I’ve read Human Stain already, it lets me know that the author has also progressed with the times. The Anti-Semitism that is the obsession of Portnoy is completely outside of my own experience. And the 90s setting of Human Stain reflects that cultural change. In some ways, chronicles it.

But that’s another review.

Portnoy’s Complaint seems like an artifact now. Perhaps the reasons it is so heralded is because it said some things for the first time. It does not come to any kind of conclusions. It just states a problem, Portnoy’s problem.

I don’t identify with him that much. And even if I did, he never offers any kind of solution. He’s just complaining.

What does it MEAN?

I went to visit a hospital for a checkup, but they put me in a gown and gave me a bed. The bed was in this huge open room with tons of other beds and no walls.I didn’t know why I was there, or what was wrong with me, other than that they were going to operate. There were going to open up my stomach and cut me.

I was so upset, I didn’t want to have this operation. No one would tell me what was going on, no one would talk to me. I felt fine! I thought that if there was something wrong with me, surgery should be the last, rather than the first, effort to solve the problem.

I was crying and pleading with people as they passed, asking what was happening, demanding to see a doctor, but no one would pay any attention to me.

Finally a nurse stopped, and explained that I had little growths, like plantar’s warts, on my intestine, and that they were going to remove those parts of my intestine.

“But, That sounds very risky! what if they grow back? Or my intestine doesn’t heal properly!”

“That’s ridiculous! This procedure has a 100% success rate”

I didn’t believe her. I begged to see a doctor, and she left, exasperated that I was so silly about this perfectly safe procedure.
I just lay down on the bed and cried.

Then I woke up. Freaky. Dreams can be so interesting.

Fortunately, I have a marvelous book.

10,000 Dreams Interpreted

I will admit, this dream is kind of baffling, but I have found Dream dictionaries (which is what this book really is) to be quite useful for understanding what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

This book is a good resource.