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Read it once, laugh your ass off, get squicked out, maybe take offense. Let yourself imagine Roth wrote it the way that it sounds, in a three-week spurt of perverse inspiration. Then read it again, and consider that it took the surest-handed postwar novelist seven agonizing years to compose, through thousands of pages of discarded dead ends and meticulously revised drafts. Realize, then, that it’s not just the funniest stand-up comedy routine ever, written down—it’s also the most brilliant riff on diaspora and sexuality since the Tanakh. No wonder some consider it scripture.





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