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I Married a Communist

Philip Roth

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Look, everything the Communists say about capitalism is true, and everything the capitalists say about Communism is true. The difference is, our system works because it's based on the truth about people's selfishness, and theirs doesn't because it's based on a fairy tale about people's brotherhood. It's such a crazy fairy tale they've got to take people and put them in Siberia in order to get them to believe it.”

“As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, a la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in. You must let it in. Otherwise you produce propaganda, if not for a political party, a political movement, then stupid propaganda for life itself -- for life as it might itself prefer to be publicized.”

“If the weather isn't bad and it's a clear night, I spend fifteen or twenty minutes before bedtime out on the deck looking skyward, or, using a flashlight, I pick my way along the dirt road to the open pasture at the peak of my hill, from where I can see, from above the treeline, the whole heavenly inventory, stars unfurled in every direction, and, just this week, the planets Jupiter in the east and Mars in the west. It is beyond belief and also a fact, a plain and indisputable face: that we are born, that this is here. I can think of worse ways to end my day.”

“Politics is the great generalizer and literature the great particularizer, and not only are they in an inverse relationship to each other---they are in an antagonistic relationship.”

“Why, emotionally, is a man of his type reciprocally connected to a woman of her type? The usual reason: their flaws fit.”

“My father was taking me as seriously as the Ringolds were, but not with Ira’s political fearlessness, with Murray’s literary ingenuity, above all, with their seeming absence of concern for my decorum, for whether I would or would not be a good boy. The Ringolds were the one-two punch promising to initiate me into the big show, into my beginning to understand what it takes to be a man on the larger scale. The Ringolds compelled me to respond at a level of rigor that felt appropriate to who I now was. Be a good boy wasn’t the issue with them. The sole issue was my convictions. But then, their responsibility wasn’t a father’s, which is to steer his son away from the pitfalls. The father has to worry about the pitfalls in a way the teacher doesn’t. He has to worry about his son’s conduct, he has to worry about socializing his little Tom Paine. But once little Tom Paine has been let into the company of men and the father is still educating him as a boy, the father is finished. Sure, he’s worrying about the pitfalls—if he wasn’t, it would be wrong. But he’s finished anyway. Little Tom Paine has no choice but to write him off, to betray the father and go boldly forth to step straight into life’s very first pit. And then, all on his own—providing real unity to his existence—to step from pit to pit for the rest of his days, until the grave, which, if it has nothing else to recommend it, is at least the last pit into which one can fall.”

“Maybe, despite ideology, politics, and history, a genuine catastrophe is always personal bathos at the core. Life can’t be impugned for any failure to trivialize people. You have to take your hat off to life for the techniques at its disposal to strip a man of his significance and empty him totally of his pride.”

“But that’s what happens. Once the human tragedy has been completed, it gets turned over to the journalists to banalize into entertainment. Perhaps it’s because the whole irrational frenzy burst right through our door and no newspaper’s half-baked insinuating detail passed me by that I think of the McCarthy era as inaugurating the postwar triumph of gossip as the unifying credo of the world’s oldest democratic republic. In Gossip We Trust. Gossip as gospel, the national faith. McCarthyism as the beginning not just of serious politics but of serious everything as entertainment to amuse the mass audience. McCarthyism as the first postwar flowering of the American unthinking that is now everywhere.”

“If the weather isn't bad and it's a clear night, I spend fifteen or twenty minutes before bedtime out on the deck looking skyward, or, using a flashlight, I pick my way along the dirt road to the open pasture at the peak of my hill, from where I can see, from above the treeline, the whole heavenly inventory, stars unfurled in every direction, and, just this week, the planets Jupiter in the east and Mars in the west. It is beyond belief and also a fact, a plain and indisputable fact: that we are born, that this is here. I can think of worse ways to end my day.”

“He has outlived dissatisfaction. This is what remains after the passing of everything, the disciplined sadness of stoicism. This is the cooling. For so long it’s so hot, everything in life is so intense, and then little by little it goes away, and then comes the cooling, and then comes the ashes.”

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Book Keywords:

life, pain, mortality, trivialization, gossip, communism, death, bathos, dwindling, tabloids, humility, mass-audiences, politics, dying, entertainment, distraction, capitalism, fate, literature, defeat, catastrophe

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