“Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Compote,” by Rebecca Coffey

Aug 10th, 2022 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose


  • An easily bruised heart
  • Mother issues
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups fruit—dried, fresh, or frozen
  • Milk of Magnesia to taste
  • The many possible indecent uses for a nice piece of liver
  • Liver


1. Gently tear the fruit apart while assuming that they’re too dumb to notice.

2. Discard any seeds or pits.

3. You know, if you shoot seeds or pits through a straw you can make somebody blind for life. SO NEVER DO IT! 

4. And if anyone does it to you, TELL YOUR MOTHER INSTANTLY!

5. Pour everything except the liver into a pot. Heat to a simmer. 

6. Actually, forget about the liver. No one in all of Newark puts liver in compote. Don’t even buy liver. 


8. Oh, good grief.

9. You are not your Mommy’s good little boy. You are not the best little boy a mommy ever had. 

10. You hug your father with that hand? You kiss your mother with that mouth?

11. When twenty minutes are up, remove the compote from heat and remove the vanilla bean pod from the compote. Enjoy.

12. “Diarrhea!” you will cry soon from the bathroom. 


14. Try to keep ironic distance from what’s happening.

15. Your compote was less than respectful of fruit, bowels, your father, a nice piece of liver, and New Jersey. Arguably, that does not detract from its significance.


Rebecca Coffey is a science and culture journalist, a humorist, and a novelist. More info is at https://RebeccaCoffey.com

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