October 20, 2005
Honors for Author, Antacid
This fall marks the confluence of two landmark events in the Jewish community -- one involves Philip Roth and the other involves Maalox. If it's not obvious where those two meet, it's right in the acid-coated kishkas of Portnoy's perpetually constipated father.
At 72, Roth recently became the youngest living author to be honored by the Library of America, which issues hardcover collections of the country's most accomplished writers. The first two volumes, covering Roth's work through the early 1970s, are out this fall.
In the author's acclaimed and controversial third novel, "Portnoy's Complaint" (1969), the title character has a small problem with his overbearing Jewish mother and an even bigger issue with -- well, perhaps we'd better move on without being explicit. If you haven't read the book, let's just say you'll never think of liver in the same way.
Portnoy's father has a problem, too. He has what one might call a "Jewish stomach." In the face of his family's constant mishegoss, he gets both heartache and heartburn.
"And how did my father take all this? He drank -- of course, not whiskey like a goy, but mineral oil and milk of magnesia ...," writes Roth on the second page of his once-incendiary novel.
Well, as of this month, the inheritors of Roth's bowel-challenged Jewish patriarch might have one less thing to worry about: Maalox, a popular antacid and heartburn treatment, is now kosher. That's right, it's the first kosher certification of a mainstream over-the-counter medication, and the Orthodox Union has chosen a heartburn remedy for the honor.
Papa Portnoy would be proud. And relieved -- in oh-so-many ways.
From now on, should you be stricken with the kind of tsuris that hits you right in your gut, the kind Mr. Portnoy needed to neutralize with a good antacid, you can finally guzzle down a remedy without going treif.
So here's to you, Philip Roth and Maalox.
Dare we say, bottoms up.