Saturday, February 13, 2010


Claire Bloom's tell-some memoir, Leaving A Doll's House, leaves me thinking that the ostensible author is either disingenuous or hopelessly naive. Someone, at some point during her long relationship with Philip Roth, should've tapped her on the shoulder and informed her that she was in a relationship with Philip freakin' Roth. Maybe then she would've been less surprised, shocked, devastated, etc. to learn of his affairs and labyrinthine erotic stratagems. Putting aside the very real physical and psychological problems Roth suffered during their relationship, Bloom's Roth is a portrait of a highly disciplined artist (Bloom uses the adjective 'ascetic' to describe this side of him), and the book can be read as a cautionary tale about falling in love with such a person, since a relationship will necessitate the partner's placing himself or herself under the artist's discipline. (I'm intentionally using old Communist Party rhetoric here, a double tribute to Roth's I Married A Communist and Bloom's fellow traveler character in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.) Because Bloom couldn't abnegate herself in this way, couldn't accept that she would always be at best second to writing in Roth's life while he would accept nothing less than being second to nothing in hers, the relationship was doomed from the start--as most are, in retrospect. Reading about this doomed marriage of artistic minds is like watching a slow motion film of a car crash. There's a certain sick fascination in it.

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