If you wanted to call a book ‘hard-hitting’, then Philip Roth’s “I Married a Communist” would be right up there. Not necessarily in the sense of the message it conveys – though that in itself is naked and raw – but in the unrelenting and merciless power of the language. At times you feel as if you’re trapped on the ropes being pummelled by a heavyweight – and it’s great!
Perhaps one of the reasons the narrative feels unrelenting is because so much of it is written as reported speech; as such, the story comes across packed with opinion, emotion, personal slants. Anger and hatred are not just described, therefore; they are ‘felt’, jagged and sharp.
The book seems to have a relatively narrow focus – the anti-communist wave in post-war America – but it broader than that, delving into the complexities of being an American Jew and the fragility of familiar and matrimonial relationships, the fragile veneer of fame. Yet I wonder if what lies behind that dark episode also speaks to the narrowness of many peoples’ thinking today, and whether you couldn’t overlay current popular prejudices and arrive at the same place. When Roth talks about hatred for Jews and society’s mistrust of Communists, might he also be talking about LBGT or ‘black lives matter’..?
You’d like to hope not – wouldn’t you…?