October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

by Philip Roth

The blacklistings and betrayals of the McCarthy era cast their long, disturbing shadows in this darkly brilliant new novel by Philip Roth, whose American Pastoral won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

Tall, rough-hewn, left-wing actor Ira Ringold takes the stage name of Iron Rinn and becomes the working-man’s hero with his patriotic radio show based on glorious episodes from American history. But Ira’s idealism is undermined and eventually sabotaged by the increasingly ugly realities of his marriage to Eve Frame, a popular film actress enslaved by the whims and demands of her lumpish and neurotic daughter, the cruelly misnamed Sylphid.

When Eve, aided by an unscrupulous journalist, takes revenge for Ira’s adultery by writing a memoir accusing him of being a Soviet spy, the actor’s career is ruined. And the novel—energized by Roth’s eloquent, highly charged language—reveals itself as a cross between insightful political fiction and a Greek tragedy whose hero’s life is altered by fate, by his own failings, by the forces of history and by the large and small treacheries of the public and private life around him. (Houghton Mifflin, $26)

Bottom Line: Scary, scintillating fiction about passion and politics

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