Quote Of The Day: Fiction & Reality

from my cell phone

Quote Of The Day #62

Ira never graduated from high school and he worked in a factory after WWII. However he had a gift in talking and was quite active in labor unions. He became a well known radio actor in New York area, where he met Eve, who was ten years old than him and had been a famous Hollywood actress. However as a middle aged woman, her film career ended and she became a popular radio personality, hosting or acting in the show “American Radio Theater”. The two fell in love and got married. And they lived in Manhattan.

The marriage was a difficult one. Their different backgrounds were attractions at first, which soon turned into fodders for resentment and ridicule. Eve mocked Ira’s deliberate exhibition of his working class ways, while Ira railed against Eve’s snobby friends and her bourgeois life style. Eve had a 24-year-old daughter Sylphid who lived with them and who worked hard on her music career. Sylphid hated her mother’s circle but didn’t have the money or strength to leave. The daughter’s presence added fuel to the bitter fire burning between the couple. And one day it got so bad that Ira went out and rented an apartment in Washington Square in Lower Manhattan.

Despite these troubles, the couple seemed to complement each other in their careers. Ira boosted his image with a famous actress by his side while Eve enjoyed the presence of a family and Ira’s vitality. Then the McCarthy era and the red scare arrived. Ira was a member of the Communist Party, but he didn’t really practice it by attending meetings or anything–in those days, many union members were communists. At first, their fame protected them from being blacklisted, but then Eve had a fall out with Ira and Eve’s friend wanted to gain some fame by writing Eve’s memoir. The perfect storm descended in the form of a book “I Married A Communist”, published by Eve to denounce Ira as devious, revengeful. Worst, it accused Ira as Stalin’s spy, who used the Washington Square apartment for his espionage activities. How would Ira defend himself?

This is the book “I Married A Communist” published in 1998 by Philip Roth and this is I hope the last book I would read of this author. It is a good read and there are many quotable lines. I just wish that there could be more description of the conflicts between the couple, and more elaborations on the emotional turmoil, which Roth knew so much and did so well in his previous books. However this portion is not as long as I would like it to be.

As to the description of Ira’s ideology and Ira’s teacher O’Day’s life, I somehow feel that the author probably has never really met a working class communist in his life. He imagines that they are passionately mad, they are devout towards their belief, they don’t mind living a life of little food and no comfort… It is all in his dream. His description of these two figures are not the most realistic to me.

Here are some quotes from the book:

If you’re orphaned as early as Ira was, you fall into the situation that all men must fall into but much, much sooner, which is tricky, because you may either get no education at all or be over-susceptible to enthusiasms and beliefs and ripe for indoctrination.

If something about my complexity mocked him, something about his simplicity also mocked me. I turned everything into an adventure, looking always to be altered, while Brownie lived with a sense of nothing other than hard necessity, had been so shaped and tamed by constraint as to be able to play only the role of himself. He was without any craving that wasn’t brewed in Zinc Town. The only thoughts he ever wanted to think were the thoughts that everybody else in Zinc Town thought. He wanted life to repeat and repeat itself, and I wanted to break out.

I think of my life as one long speech that I’ve been listening to…how to think, how not to think; how to behave, how not to behave; whom to loathe and whom to admire; what to embrace and when to escape; what is rapturous, what is murderous, what is laudable, what is shallow, what is sinister, what is shit…

People give up too easily and fake their feelings. They want to have feelings right away, and so “shocked” and “moved” are the easiest. The stupidest.

There’s a problem with wives altogether. Most guys who marry are too vulnerable–they’ve given hostages to reaction in the person of their wives and kids. So it’s left to a little coterie of hardened characters on their own to take care of what’s got to be taken care of. Sure, all this is a grind, sure, it’d be nice to have a home, to have a soft woman waiting at the end of the day, maybe to have a couple of kids. Even guys who know what it’s all about get fed up once in a while…

Eve cloaked herself in the mantle of love, the fantasy of love, but was too weak and vulnerable a person not to be filled with resentment. She was too intimidated by everything to provide love that was sensible and to the point–to provide anything but a caricature of love. That’s what Sylphid got. A person like that you don’t make overnight.

Anything to empty life of its incongruities, of its meaningless, messy contingencies, and to impose on it instead the simplification that coheres—and misapprehends everything.

(To be continued here)

8 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Fiction & Reality

  1. “the author probably has never really met a working class communist in his life” lol this made me laugh. I always find anti-communist propaganda to be so amusing because you can clearly tell they don’t know much about real communists or their agendas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. So true. And this book suffer from the same kind of presumption. It’s a figure out of the author’s imagined stereotype formed by the propaganda he heard or read. And these people are like out of this world, without common sense, no need for creature comfort, disregard social etiquette. Haha, it is really laughable.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. He does. I would attribute this to his overconfidence in his own writing skills. He tries to write about certain kind of characters without having in contact with a real life model of it, or without having done any research on them. I mean sometimes people (me included) think they are smart enough to get away with this–i mean reality–but unfortunately they can’t.

          Liked by 1 person

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