Finished I Married a Communist by Philip Roth. Reaction: whoa. One of the most powerful and disturbing books I've read in a while.
It tells the story of a doomed marriage in the McCarthy era. Self-educated socialist firebrand Ira Ringold marries actress and socialite Eve Frame. The marriage breaks down and she denounces him as a Communist, ending his career.
It's told from odd points of view: the shadowy narrator Nathan Zuckerman, who hero-worshipped Ringold as a boy, encounters Rinn's older brother Murray. It's told unwaveringly from their points of view and in their voices, in complete defiance of the standard writing-workshop of Show Don't Tell: everything here is clearly told.
The book captures superbly well the passion and intellectual excitement of the youthful Zuckerman at encountering Rinn and socialist ideas for the first time. It makes it all the more disturbing as Rinn's feet of clay are steadily revealed. The book has some ruthlessly cynical touches as it nears the end: the urge to do good is itself represented as something inevitably ending in something bad, though that may just be supposed to be a sign of Zuckerman's own cynicism.
Didn't really notice it in the other Roth book I read "The Plot Against America", but you can definitely see signs of what they call Roth's misogyny. It seems to be tempered by a streak of misanthropy; but while the men are grandly evil the women are just squalidly evil. Didn't realise it till I looked it up afterwards but apparently this book is partly an attack on Roth's ex-wife. She wrote a memoir presenting him badly after their messy divorce: the character of Eve Frame is apparently an exaggerated portrait of her, and this memoir is equated with the sensational book "I Married a Communist" Frame has ghost-written.
Overall though, a powerful story of layers of betrayal: well worth reading if you've got the stomach for it.
Getting wound up by the current project at work. It's a nightmarish bit of integration of wildly disparate, hideously convoluted, separate systems. Getting anything done takes an age: fixing one thing breaks everything else, fixing the tiniest navigation problem involves tortuous tracking back through databases and XSL. Even getting an update to show takes about 15 minutes of manual fucking around (this isn't PC-land, I have to reinstall apps on consumer hardware) and then half the time it doesn't show at all and I have to undo step by step to find out what went wrong. It's really doing my head in.
Howard Waldrop on pens. I'm a bit disappointed actually. The guy's a brilliant fiction writer, but the paper-blogging concept doesn't seem to be working: he's kind of laboriously going through the kind of tips and information that we're deluged with. Go and read Them Bones or A Dozen Tough Jobs anyway.
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