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 twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He 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." Roth received PEN's two most prestigious awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. He died in 2018.
Disconcerting echoes of Roth's relationship with Claire Bloom, as revealed in her memoir, Leaving the Doll's House, haunt Roth's angry but oddly inert 23rd novel. As in American Pastoral, Roth again deals with the Newark of his youth, and with the sons of Jewish immigrants to whom America has given opportunity and even riches‘and how they are swept off course by the forces of history. Roth's old alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, narrates the story of Ira Ringold, aka Iron Rinn, a supremely idealistic political radical and celebrated radio star of the 1950s who is blacklisted and brought to ruin when his wife, Eva Frame (a self-hating Jewish actress born Chava Fromkin), writes an expose called I Married A Communist. The impetus for Eva's treacherous act is Ira's insistence that she evict her 24-year-old daughter from their house; the resemblance to Bloom's revelations of Roth's similar demand is too close to miss, and Roth's shrill belaboring of the issue seems a thinly disguised vendetta. Even high-pitched scenes of family conflict don't bring the novel to life. One problem is that the flat flashback narration shared between the 64-year-old Nathan and Ira's 90-year-old brother, Murray, is stultifyingly dull. Some fine Roth touches do appear: his evocation of the Depression years through the McCarthy era has clarity and vigor. But Ira's aggressively boorish behavior as he struggles with his conscience over having abandoned his Marxist ideals to assume a bourgeois lifestyle is never credible, and his turgid ideological rants against the American government are jackhammers of repetitious invective. In addition, the depiction of an adolescent Nathan as a precocious writer and social philosopher and the saintly Murray's infallible memory of long conversations with Ira‘even between Ira and Eva in bed‘challenge the reader's credulity. For those who lived through the years Roth evokes, this novel will have some resonance. For others, its belligerent tone and lack of dramatic urgency will be a turn-off. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo. (Oct.)
Roth turns from chaotic Sixties (in American Pastoral) to the betrayals of the McCarthy era one decade earlier. When silent-film star Eve Frame (born Chava Fromkin) tells the world that her husband, famed radio actor Iron Rinn (born Ira Ringold), spied for the Commies, all hell breaks loose.
"A bitter, often funny, always engrossing story that wonderfully evokes a time and place in our common past.... The idealisms and hypocrisies of the postwar period [are] brilliantly resurrected." --Robert Stone, The New York Review of Books
"A remarkable work--remarkable in its stringent observation of American life...remarkable in its wisdom. Mr. Roth has the frantic politics of this frantic time--the McCarthy era--in exact pitch." --Arthur Schlesinger, The New York Observer "As social history it bbreathes life. In Ira Ringold, Roth has created one of his singularly ripe, vigorous characters. Ira's dizzying rise and fall out of and back into the working class trace the trajectory of twenty years of American history." --Todd Gitlin, Chicago Tribune "Philip Roth is an amazing writer.... I Married a Communist may very well become his classic work; perhaps a classic for all time."--The Plain Dealer "Gripping.... A masterly, often unnerving, blend of tenderness, harshness, insight and wit."--The New York Times Book Review "I Married a Communist is filled with passages as fine and sharp as anything Roth has ever written (which is to say, as fine and sharp as anything in contemporary American literature)."--The Village Voice Literary Supplement "I Married a Communist leaves you--both dumbfounded and in awe."--Chicago Sun-Times "[S]eals [Roth's] reputation as a writer at the very top of his game."--The Philadelphia Inquirer