Nothing much happens in this book about a communist radio actor caught in the grip of McCarthyism. At his best Roth imparts narrative drive and suspe..Show More »nse to works that are primarily analytical and linguistic as opposed to being plot driven. In his less successful works this can come across as page after page of "blah, blah, blah". I think the American Trilogy is great. But this book is the weakest of the three. I read where it was Roth's personal favorite. Hmmmmm. To be sure there are very strong sections but all in all I was underwhelmed. Although the great George Guidall remains my favorite narrator of all things Roth, Ron Silver is nearly as good. If you love Roth's writing, as I do, you will undoubtedly get around to reading/listening to IMAC. It's just not the place I would want to start.
The title, and Roth's prestige, had me thinking this was going to be an extremely heavy-handed novel and was actually relieved when I found the plot a..Show More »nd the characters deep enough to swim in but not be drowned by. I thought about them long after I finished the book and I found it all to be paced very nicely. I had no trouble getting into the story at its start and then when I realized it was about something entirely different than I had first supposed I was hooked. I know this review may be a little abstract but I don't want to mislead or give anything away. This book is a window into a time and place--a life much like any other where ordinary things happen and the main characters and the society we share with them are what are fascinating--not some epic drama about a Big Event.
I did not find the academic parts of this book pretentious or inaccessible because it seemed Roth was pointing an almost self-deprecating finger at institutionalized education. He did this both through the narrator's character--which was one of literary accomplishment and social seclusion--and also through his unfavorable depiction of (some) university politics.
Anyway, that's not what makes this story wonderful nor at all what it is about. It brings questions of identity gently to the surface through dark water and then suddenly yanks them free for all to see and poke at and inquire upon--all while maintaining this conspiratorial relationship between the narrator and the reader, as if we are the only ones in on the secret and must ponder our own choices and identities alone.