The writings of  Richard Kluger

Un-American Activities

The Critical Response


NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Mona Simpson): “Richard Kluger’s vast and accomplished third novel…is about a young man’s coming of age in the 1930’s.  Throughout that decade, the book’s intelligent, brave, well-educated, and not particularly handsome protagonist Toby Ronan struggles with large, fundamental questions about his life….  In its refusal to reduce experience to ideas, Un-American Activities is an ambitious and profoundly American novel.”


LOS ANGELES TIMES (Elaine Kendall): “The book has an authentic 1930s feel, supplied by the author’s total recall of the idiom, costume and props of the period.  Like the early novels of John Dos Passos and Thomas Wolfe, Un-American Activities is substantial, earnest, and nourishing.  Reading it leaves one with a definite sense of time spent upon a worthwhile project.  Though the novel of ideas is an endangered species, Kluger has given it a reprieve.”


CHICAGO TRIBUNE (Richard J. Walton): “Un-American Activities is not only wonderful but wonderfully long…..  It is one o those books you just sink into, secure in the knowledge that the end is far distant.  You read it faster and faster because you’re so caught up in it, and then when finally you approach the end, slowly and even more slowly.  You don’t want it to end….  What I did not expect was wit instead of sobriety, a novel with all the intensity, enthusiasm, and vulnerability of a first novel, even though Kluger is well into middle age.  How rare and wonderful to find a novel with the spirit of youth and the wisdom of experience….”


THE NATION (Victor Navasky): “Most underrated novel of the year…an unsentimental, nonideological (and ultrareadable) journey through the popular front….  The most American of novels, containing, among other joys, a startling portrait of the old conservations corps.”

“Kluger’s grasp of the whole train of domestic and international events in what Auden once called that ‘low, dishonest decade’ up to the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow in 1939 is practically Lippmannesque.  The book is highly intelligent … continuously interesting, and valuable enough to be mentioned in the same breath with Dos Passos’s U.S.A.”

   – CARLOS BAKER,  author of  Hemingway

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “…an elegantly written novel about the development of the social conscience of an idealist throughout the 1930s….the characters are well drawn and the political discussions consistently interesting.”


THE BOOKLIST (American Library Association): “A grand and occasionally grandiose romance of a young man’s struggle to come to grips with himself and with the momentous events of the 1930s….  [T]he breadth of Kluger’s social vision makes palpable the ideas and ideals that coalesced in the hearts and minds of youthful America during that fateful era.”


NASHVILLE BANNER (Roy E. Perry): “Richard Kluger continues the Dos Passos tradition.  An important ‘political’ novel in the best sense of the term, Un-American Activities is informed by political, social, and economic insights.  A highly literate work, it is also a novel of cultural substance.  In short, it is both emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating….  Kluger researched his novel as extensively and painstakingly as any historian.  His efforts have paid off magnificently; his novel is ‘weighty’ in substance as well as size.”


CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (Marianne Evett): “Richard Kluger’s massive Dickensian novel…is an intelligent, vivid recreation of a decade of profound change in American life – and one that resonates particularly in our own.  Perhaps we need not ask for more.”


HARTFORD COURANT (Bob Steier): “Un-American Activities is a novel about needs and aspirations.  There’s Toby’s need to be loved and respected.  There are the needs of the American Society during the Depression: the needs of workers, employers, students, and teachers….  [The novel] is not without flaws…  However, Kluger compensates for these…with his ability to populate his novel with finely drawn characters and to handle a tricky theme with intelligence and wit.”



©2017 Richard Kluger