‘The love alternative’
Philip Roth’s I Married a Communist (1998) and The Human Stain (2000)
in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction
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This chapter focuses on the second and third volumes of Philip Roth’s ‘American Trilogy’ (1997–200). It explores how Roth connects the political cultures of the 1940s and 1990s through the male friendships framing each narrative. The chapter considers how, in I Married a Communist (1998), Roth offers a revisionist history of the fraternal politics and demotic aesthetics of the Popular Front, a history crafted by the novel’s co-narrators, Nathan Zuckerman and his former teacher Murray Ringold. Expanding on the novel’s allusions to Thomas Paine, Howard Fast, and Norman Corwin, and drawing on new archival research into Roth’s sources and inspiration for the character of Murray, the chapter provides a re-estimation of I Married a Communist as a deceptively subtle work of historical fiction. The chapter then turns to The Human Stain, analysing how the intense friendship between Nathan and Classics professor Coleman Silk comes to define the novel’s narrative form and its engagement with history.

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