I Married A Communist Hardcover – 15 Oct 1998
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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 nineties 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
I Married a Communist proves that, following the success of Sabbath's Theater and American Pastoral, Roth remains on extraordinary form - wonderful storytelling and characterisation. (Erica Wagner Guardian, Books of the Year)
Knotted with energy, barely wasting a scene or a word in its cracking velocity. (Philip Hensher Mail on Sunday)
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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Still, it’s a mixed bag. It has a weird structure, with a youngish narrator being told most of the events by an older man recalling them…only the narrator was there for some of the narrative so can provide his own perspective – and sometimes it becomes hard to remember who is talking or what they are saying. It’s a bit muddled and confusing, and not strictly necessary.
It starts out exploring the impact of the blacklist on people’s lives, and the impulses that drove good people into first the Henry Wallace Progressive movement and then to the Communist Party. It covers well the fine impulses that drove people there, and also the sheer misery of the CP’s twists and turns and what they meant for those people. It explains how the New Dealers and liberals were the real target of the red-baiters, and how much nasty score-settling went on.
But two thirds of the way it seems to change tack and sentiment; the liberal and communist characters are suddenly driven not by personal or political conviction but by their own emotional flaws. Some of this is revelation of the plot, and some of it feels like Roth changed his mind and started to write a different book.
And the portrayal of the mutually destructive relationship between the main protagonist and his wife, and her previous destructive relationships with men and with her daughter, are really horrible. It’s put into the mouths of those characters who are generally reliable and insightful witnesses, so we are supposed to take it as a true and honest account.Read more ›
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.
"I Married A Communist", the second in the author's trilogy about the huge political movements shaping post-WWII American history (Vietnam, McCarthyism and, with his latest, "The Human Stain", the Clinton era and p.c.-ness), is a very, very good book. However, "American Pastoral" it ain't.
In this second volume, Roth tells the story of Iron Rinn, a militantly naiive political figure of the post-war generation. The themes are typically Rothian: definitions of success, alienation, what it means to belong, what it means to separate. And, while the plot is fascinating and there are portions of the book that are written so magnificently you'll want to weep, there is a remote quality --- a third-person-ness and therefore an aloofness --- that detracts from the overall effectiveness.
Still, the book deserves four stars because it's part of the Roth canon. He's always worth reading and always astounding and delightful and depressing and devastating. Even when he's merely being a bit more mortal than we've come to expect of a writer with his gifts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not as impressive as "American Pastoral" - but still a fantastic book. The prose is as good, the structure likewise. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Paul Sutton
Good to have some light shed on an era and subject I know little about. I was not wholly satisfied with the novel, however, since it is engrossing on some occasions and then drags... Read morePublished 22 months ago by sarenj kadir
I think this is Roth at his best. He depicts people living through the anti communist witchhunt with such realism and sympathy. Ira, particularly, a memorable portrayal.Published 22 months ago by MRS FMA HUTCHISON
An interesting take on the era of the communist witch-hunt. Roth's narrative is a joy as is his understanding of the feelings of his characters. All in all a very good read.Published 24 months ago by David Muil
Human spotlights on some of the weird politics of post war USA. Brilliant take on betrayal. Excellent story telling keeps you engaged throughout.Published on 30 May 2014 by hungryskater
no attempt at paraphrase could bring out the richness of this humane, angry, tender, stirring book. Read it, if it's your first Roth it will no way be your last.Published on 20 Jan. 2014 by Wild Rover
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... Read morePublished on 3 Aug. 2013 by Stephanie De Pue