"Stuck into her English book, right there on the floor, was the essay she had written on 'Ozymandias.' B-plus and across the front the professor had written, 'Excellent paragraph development; good understanding of meaning; good use of quotations; but please don't stuff your sentences so.' And maybe she had overdone the main topic sentence somewhat, but her intention had been to state at the outset all those ideas that she would later take up in the body of the essay. 'Even a great king,' her paper began, 'such as Ozymandias apparently had been, could not predict or control what the future, or Fate, held in store for him and his kingdom; that, I think, is the message that Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet, means for us to come away with from his romantic poem "Ozymandias," which not only reveals the theme of the vanity of human wishes — even a king's — but deals also with the concept of the immensity of "boundless and bare" life and the inevitability of the "colossal wreck" of everything, as compared to the "sneer of cold command," which is all many mere mortals have at their command, unfortunately.' "
— Philip Roth, When She Was Good
"Why he brought her home, he said, was 'for a real Jewish meal.' For weeks he had been jabbering about the new goyische cashier ('a very plain drab person,' he said, 'who dresses in shmattas') who had been pestering him — so went the story he couldn't stop telling us — for a real Jewish meal from the day she had come to work in the Boston & Northeastern office. Finally my mother couldn't take any more. 'All right, bring her already — she needs it so bad, so I'll give her one.' Was he caught a little by surprise? Who will ever know.
"At any rate, a Jewish meal is what she got all right. I don't think I have ever heard the word 'Jewish' spoken so many times in one evening in my life, and let me tell you, I am a person who has heard the word 'Jewish' spoken.
" 'This is your real Jewish chopped liver, Anne. Have you ever had real Jewish chopped liver before? Well, my wife makes the real thing, you can bet your life on that. Here, you eat it with a piece of bread. This is real Jewish rye bread, with seeds. That's it, Anne, you're doing very good, ain't she doing good, Sophie, for her first time? That's it, take a nice piece of real Jewish rye, now take a big fork full of the real Jewish chopped liver' — and on and on, right down to the jello — 'that's right, Anne, the jello is kosher too, sure, of course, has to be — oh no, oh no, no cream in your coffee, not after meat, ha ha, hear what Anne wanted, Alex — ?'
"But babble-babble all you want, Dad dear, a question has just occurred to me, twenty-five years later (not that I have a single shred of evidence, not that until this moment I have ever imagined my father capable of even the slightest infraction of domestic law... but since infraction seems to hold for me a certain fascination), a question has arisen in the audience: why did you bring a shikse, of all things, into our home? Because you couldn't bear that a gentile woman should go through life without the experience of eating a dish of Jewish jello? Or because you could no longer live your own life without making Jewish confession? Without confronting your wife with your crime, so she might accuse, castigate, humiliate, punish, and thus bleed you forever of your forbidden lusts! Yes, a regular Jewish desperado, my father. I recognize the syndrome perfectly. Come, someone, anyone, find me out and condemn me — I did the most terrible thing you can think of: I took what I am not supposed to have! Chose pleasure for myself over duty to my loved ones! Please, catch me, incarcerate me, before God forbid I get away with it completely — and go out and do again something I actually like!
"And did my mother oblige? Did Sophie put together the two tits and the two legs and come up with four? Me it seems to have taken two and a half decades to do such steep calculation. Oh, I must be making this up, really. My father... and a shikse? Can't be. Was beyond his ken. My own father — fucked shikses? I'll admit under duress that he fucked my mother... but shikses? I can no more imagine him knocking over a gas station."
— Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
Previous pieces on Chaplin at Cinemasparagus: