Book Notes: Philip Roth’s I Married a Communist

When Philip Roth split up from one of his wives, she got upset and wrote a memoir trashing him. You got to be really dumb to write something against one of the best writers of the twentieth century. But the wife was an actress, so clearly incapable of seeing the limitations of her extremely modest literary gifts.

Roth got mad over the memoir and wrote I Married a Communist to satirize the annoying ex-wife. It turned out to be one of his best novels. And herein lies the downfall of his plan to punish the ex. An artistic gift is stronger than the frail and fallible human being that possesses it. The novel didn’t care much about what Roth wanted it to say. It portrays him as the villain of the story and a first-class dickwad.

I Married a Communist is a complicated, beautiful work of literature. I don’t like Roth’s heavily postmodern stuff but I do love his The American Trilogy, of which this is the second novel. Roth is still a postmodern writer just like we are postmodern readers whether we like it or not but he tells a darn good story in the novel and he tells it well.

Now I’m battling the temptation to reread The Human Stain, the third novel in the trilogy, for the third time.

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