Good Morning, Philip Roth!

Alexander Portnoy reflects on an alternative way of life
Philip Roth, 'Portnoy's Complaint'

An excerpt from Philip Roth's landmark 1969 novel, Portnoy's Complaint:
Then there's an expression in English, "Good morning," or so I have been told; the phrase has never been of any particular use to me. Why should it have been? At breakfast at home I am in fact known to the other boarders as "Mr. Sourball," and "The Crab." But suddenly, here in Iowa, in imitation of the local inhabitants, I am transformed into a veritable geyser of good mornings. That's all anybody around that place knows how to say—they feel any sunshine on their faces, and it just sets off some sort of chemical reaction: Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! sung to half a dozen different tunes! Next they all start asking each other if they had a "good night's sleep." And asking me! Did I have a good night's sleep? I don't really know, I have to think—the question comes as something of a surprise. Did I Have A Good Night's Sleep? Why, yes! I think I did! Hey—did you? "Like a log," replied Mr. Campbell. And for the first time in my life I experience the full force of a simile. This man, who is a real estate broker and an alderman of the Davenport town council, says that he slept like a log, and I actually see a log. I get it! Motionless, heavy, like a log! "Good morning," he says, and now it occurs to me that the word "morning," as he uses it, refers specifically to the hours between eight A.M. and twelve noon. I'd never thought of it that way before. He wants the hours between eight and twelve to be good, which is to say, enjoyable, pleasurable, beneficial! We are all of us wishing each other four hours of pleasure and accomplishment. Why, that's terrific! Hey, that's very nice! Good morning! And the same applies to "Good afternoon"! And "Good evening"! And "Good night"! My God! The English language is a form of communication! Conversation isn't just crossfire where you shoot and get shot at! Where you've got to duck for your life and aim to kill! Words aren't only bombs and bullets—no, they're little gifts, containing meanings!

Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
Also at A Piece of Monologue: