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Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. "The Puzzled Penis," Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.
With a new Afterword by the author for the 25th Anniversary edition.
leaped, that such thinking is a trifle barbaric? That all you are expressing is your fear? The very first distinction I learned from you, I’m sure, was not night and day, or hot and cold, but goyische and Jewish! But now it turns out, my dear parents, relatives, and assembled friends who have gathered here to celebrate the occasion of my bar mitzvah, it turns out, you schmucks! you narrow-minded schmucks!—oh, how I hate you for your Jewish narrow-minded minds! including you, Rabbi Syllable, who
to bed, and carefully crosses me going to school, and then stands back and obligingly allows herself to be swallowed up by the wall (I guess that’s where she is) when I am imitating for my beaming parents all the voices on “Allen’s Alley,” or being heralded to relatives from one end of North Jersey to the other for my perfect report card. Because when I am not being punished, Doctor, I am being carried around that house like the Pope through the streets of Rome … You know, I can really come up
which made a strong impression on me (not that all her stories didn’t compel this particular neurotic’s attention, with their themes of cruelty, ignorance, and exploitation): Once when she was eleven, and against her father’s will had sneaked off on a Saturday to a ballet class given by the local “artiste” (called Mr. Maurice), the old man came after her with a belt, beat her with it around the ankles all the way home, and then locked her in the closet for the rest of the day—and with her feet
myself—what am I doing having an affair with a woman nearly thirty years of age who thinks you spell “dear” with three letters! Already two months had passed since the pickup on Lexington Avenue, and still, you see, the same currents of feeling carrying me along: desire, on the one hand, delirious desire (I’d never known such abandon in a woman in my life!), and something close to contempt on the other. Correction. Only a few days earlier there had been our trip to Vermont, that weekend when it
mortgage on a home! A man wants what my father used to call an umbrella for a rainy day—and you ought to see those pigs go to work on him! And I mean the real pigs, the pros! Who do you think got the banks to begin to recruit Negroes and Puerto Ricans for jobs in this city, to send personnel people to interview applicants in Harlem? To do that simple thing? This pig, lady—Portnoy! You want to talk pigs, come down to the office, take a look through my In basket any morning of the week, I’ll show