The scene I remember most vividly is young Portnoy’s Thanksgiving trip to the home of Kay Campbell, that pie-shaped representative of American normalcy. I was rereading the book in college and, at the time, making my own forays into the homes of Middle-American gentile girls. What struck me most was the smiling - at dinner, at bedtime, at the breakfast table, at the carwash, at Sunday bingo, after Sunday bingo. A nation of grinners and chucklers. What lay underneath the toothy smiles I could only guess at, but at least from the outside it seemed a world removed from the shtetl-infused conflicts of a Russian-Jewish home, from the anxious humor and daily fear and suspicion of just about everything. The gulf between Russia, the country I came from, and the one I now called home struck me with every friendly handshake and buttermilk hug. But then I was not Portnoy, who, it must be remembered, was born in America.
Gary Shteyngart writing in 2005 in The New York Times about Portnoy’s Complaint. Today is Philip Roth's 80th birthday (Happy birthday, Roth, old man!) and John Powers will review the new PBS documentary about the novelist on the show this afternoon.
Here’s a 2010 interview with Shteyngart .