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I Married A Communist Paperback – 1 Jul 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099287838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099287834
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004". Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ira Ringold (now Iron Rinn) is a self-educated radio actor married to spoilt, rags-to-riches beauty and silent-film star, Eve Frame. He is a Communist, she is passionately and irrationally anti-Semitic (in spite of her own Jewish origins). Roth's alter-ego narrator Nathan Zuckerman--an idealistic admirer of Ira as a boy-- uncovers the story of Eve's betrayal of Ira to a gossip- columnist, and Nathan's own unknowing involvement with the blacklistings and ruined careers of the immediate post-war period. Roth's characteristically acerbic writing and keen eye for emotional detail reaches to the heart of this moment of high American tragedy, a point at which the American dream was damaged beyond recovery.

The McCarthy era has faded, eerily, into nostalgia, just as Capitol Hill produces its own 90s version of witch- hunt and communal obsession with enemies of the state, and perversions of justice perpetrated in democracy's name. Roth avoids nostalgia by making his narrator an active, if unwitting participant in the original drama, caught up in political currents and counter-currents he did not comprehend at the time. --Lisa Jardine

Review

"A passionate and coruscating American tragedy" Financial Times "Roth explores our expedients and tragedies with a masterly, often unnerving, blend of tenderness, harshness, insight and wit...a gripping novel" New York Times Book Review "Roth remains as edgy, as furious, as funny, and as dangerous as he was forty years ago" New York Review of Books "Quintessential Philip Roth" Sunday Telegraph "I Married a Communist proves that, following the success of Sabbath's Theater and American Pastoral, he remains on extraordinary form... Wonderful storytelling and characterisation" -- Erica Wagner Guardian, Books of the Year

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
This 1998 novel by Philip Roth is another in the series featuring his most prolific fictional protagonist, Nathan Zuckerman. Here, Zuckerman has reached late middle age (his 60s), and following a career as a playwright, is now something of recluse. The entire I Married A Communist Novel consists of an extended account of a meeting between Zuckerman and his erstwhile college teacher and fellow Jew, the 90-year old Murray Ringold, as the two reflect (primarily) on the life of Murray's brother, one time Zinc miner and latterly radio theatre star and notorious communist Ira Ringold (otherwise known as Iron Rinn). Predominantly set in Roth's home territory of Newark, New Jersey, what on the surface may sound like the transcription of a relatively dry, second-hand life-story is transformed by Roth's masterly prose and skill at characterisation into a devastating commentary on the fallibilities of the human condition, as exhibited across a range of compelling cast members, and fictionally related during a key period of US history, in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

Indeed, although some commentators have interpreted the character of Ira Ringold's wife, established film star Eve Frame, as a fictional incarnation of Roth's ex-wife Claire Bloom, I prefer to think of the novel's characters as being firmly based in (and formed from) its post-WWII setting, when US paranoia (predominantly around Communism, but also Jewishness) was at one of its (many) periods of peak intensity. Roth again uses a 'semi-fictional' approach (as in Operation Shylock and The Plot Against America), whereby the novel's fictional events are depicted in relation to real-life developments (e.g. the anti-communist HUAC investigations and Richard Nixon's resignation), thereby enhancing the novel's sense of realism.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
I thought this was a wonderful novel. It throws light on a subject not much understood (left-wing politics in the USA) but its key themes are those of betrayal and (typically for Roth) the difficulties in really understanding others and their motives. I found the ending almost breathtakingly beautiful. Roth is up there with Shakespeare in his ability to mix the sacred and profane. I doubt there is a better contemporary writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
Philip Roth's I MARRIED A COMMUNIST, 1998, is one of his Zuckerman books, but one in which the author's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman simply narrates: the story of Ira Ringgold, whom he had known since his Newark Jewish childhood, as Ira was the brother of one of his favorite teachers, Murray Ringgold. Ira, perhaps defined by the fact that he was big, and rough, coming from a rough neighborhood as the Ringgold brothers did, began life as a teenage ditch digger in 1930s Depression Newark. Rode the rails, worked all over the country, as a miner, a steel worker. Joined the Army and fought during World War II. Improbably became a big radio star, and married an even bigger radio star, Eve Frame, who had been a very very big silent film star. (People who are familiar with the lives of some celebrities may well feel that Eve, a self-hating Jew born Brooklyn's Chave Fromkin, who climbs the social ladder by imitating her betters, including their anti-semitism, strongly resembles the beautiful British actress Claire Bloom, one of Roth's ex-wives. And that Roth is here further pursuing his quarrels with her.) At any rate, the fictional Eve delivers Ira into quite a desirable lifestyle, based in a Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York townhouse, beautifully furnished, where she frequently entertains glittering figures in the arts and literature. But he can't get on with her daughter from a previous marriage, Sylphid.

And Ira is a confirmed, dedicated Communist, bullying everyone around him with his political views, furthermore using his radio show to put forth the party's views.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By 100wordreviewer on 9 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
Roth is an outstanding prose writer, and "I married a Communist" shows him at his best. Illustrating the conflicts of McCarthy-era American through the tale of pugnacious Communist Ira Ringold, Roth creates a panoply of interesting characters set in a powerful narrative with a slow-building, satisfying storyline.
One reservation: Roth is occasionally carried away by his own writing skill. Result: his otherwise excellent dialogue sometimes goes on at excessive length: the book would be more readable edited down by 30 pages.
Conclusion: excellent heavyweight literary fiction with a few dull patches.
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Format: Paperback
The ageing novelist Zuckerman meets his now 90 year old English teacher and they recollect the English teacher's life, blighted by blacklisting in the McCarthy era - and his personal demons.

The novel reflects deep study of the McCarthy era in US politics - the biography in the Library of America edition of Roth's novels explains that he himself followed very closely the 1948 election, which saw the Democrats split three ways - and win with Harry Truman (you feel, no more the young Roth's choice than the young Zuckerman's).

Of course there's much to admire here, notably in Roth's treatment of the passage of time and old age. But for me this novel bogged down a bit in the historical detail; and the 'personal demons' bit of the story, when revealed, casts a certain doubt over the integrity of the English teacher and his wife (that somehow just doesn't strike Zuckerman the narrator).

And overall, this is not the Roth I'd come to love and admire in his earlier books - no longer so wildly inventive, exuberant or comic (as even in his earlier book covering US politics, Our Gang, which is hilarious), but rather seriously lamenting the human condition through a very well research - and rather slow-moving - historical novel. Not the best of Roth, then - at least for this reader.
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