Books: Return of a Jewish Centaur

THE PROFESSOR OF DESIRE by Philip Roth

Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 263 pages; $8.95

The hero of Philip Roth's tenth book is Jewish and unhappy. So what else, as Alexander Portnoy's mother might say, is new? Indeed, David Kepesh is the same slick monologuist that Portnoy was, given to frequent exclamations, flurries of rhetorical questions ("Is she not the single most desirable creature I have ever known?") and carefully italicized emphases. He tosses off one-liners (calling, for instance, his Aunt Sylvia "the Benvenuto Cellini of strudel") as if he has a stable of Borscht...

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