Quote Of The Day: Fiction & Reality (Continued)

from my cell phone

This is the second half of the post and the first half is here.

I read this book because I heard that this book is based on the author’s marriage to Clara, his second wife, who’s a famous actress. The author grew up admiring her movies. It is said the two had more than a decade of relationship, which ended in a brief marriage and a divorce. After the divorce, the embittered Clara wrote a book to vent her anger and frustration, which caused considerable damage to the author’s ego and his reputation. And the author’s counterattack is his book “I Married A Communist”, in which the main character Ira also married a famous actress Eve. When they separated, Eve published a book, which completely destroyed Ira.

Actually Ira is not an impersonation of the author, but rather the book is narrated by Nathan, the author’s alter ego, who’s a writer. Ira’s brother Murray was Nathan’s high school teacher and they lived in the same neighborhood in Newark, NJ, where Nathan met Ira. For a while, Nathan was under Ira’s influence and brought back home communist literature, which alarmed Nathan’s father. Their brief friendship ended when Nathan went to Chicago to attend college.

Thirty years later, Nathan was a professor in a college, where Murray, a retiree about 90 years old, attended courses to keep his mind sharp. They met and that’s when Murray related the whole story of his beloved brother Ira with Nathan.

I expected this book to talk more about Ira and Eve, their marriage, their squabble, their daily interaction, their conflicts, and the strained relationship with Eve’s daughter. However the book only contains one third of such content. And Eve is not described in depth and Eve’s daughter is not described in detail at all. Having read several of the author’s other books, I know the author doesn’t depict women very well, but still he writes about the emotional upheavals in splendid detail, such as in “My Life As A Man” and “Potnoy’s Complaints”. However, the trading of insightful emotional barbs is completely absent from this book. I was a little shocked at not finding what I was expecting to find. The author is an expert in blaming women for men’s misery, and the theme of this book seemed to me, before reading it, like the highest pitch of his misogynistic expression. I was willing to tolerate the misogyny of the author in exchange for some beautiful conflicts between men and women, but I was a little disappointed at the author’s unemotional treatment of the whole thing in this book.

And two thirds of the book are about Nathan’s own growth from a boy to a writer, and Ira and his mentor O’Day’s ideological conversation about communism. I enjoy the description of Nathan’s own growth, which is obviously the author’s personal story. However the depiction of Ira and O’Day is not very real to me for some reason. They are portrayed as unreal people who don’t care about what they eat, what they wear, where they live, or how they live. They don’t care about money or properties. They don’t judge people, but they spend every minute of their life indoctrinating whoever lends the ear to them. I don’t know who is the prototype that the author based this image on, but I’ve never met such a person in my life. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt and admit that there are a lot of people I haven’t met. So such people may exist. Well, somehow I can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s a stereotype that the author learned in college. Or he probably did meet somebody like that on the streets of Newark before the McCarthy era, but he didn’t have close connection with such people. Instead he imagined what their life would be like.

Overall, it is still an enjoyable read, even though the author didn’t describe Ira and Eve’s relationship as he did for Peter and Maureen in “My Life As A Man”.

7 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Fiction & Reality (Continued)

    1. He is such a misogynist that his female characters are always awful–they are either strict puritanical minded cold authoritative ugly witch, or they are innocent artless naive barely legal girl who willingly submit themselves to him. His women are all deformed and unreal.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is all very interesting, but this passage struck me in particular:

    “unreal people who don’t care about what they eat, what they wear, where they live, or how they live. They don’t care about money or properties. They don’t judge people”

    This reminds me a bit of what I was like when I was a student and for quite a few years after. So it may be a more general male thing – and it may be that Roth was extrapolating from his own personality and assuming that all vaguely academic people were perpetual students in that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right. During one’s college years or early youth, one sort of goes through a phase like this. I guess probably, just like what you said, Roth went through the same thing and imagined such an existence extending towards adulthood.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s