Do I have to spell it out?

I’m now over halfway through Goodbye, Columbus.  I’ve finished the titular novella and am now on to the short stories.

I came across an interesting word in the course of reading.  In this situation, Neil Klugman, the story’s narrator, is joining his girlfriend’s golden-boy older brother in the bathroom on the eve of the brother’s wedding.  They brush their teeth side by side before the mirror.

It was not out of boredom and loneliness that I accepted; rather a brief spark of lockerroom comradery had been struck there among the soap and the water and the tile, and I thought that perhaps Ron’s invitation was prompted by a desire to spend his last moments as a Single Man with another Single Man.

That word.  Comradery.  Which I don’t think is a word.  I’m certain that a writer of Roth’s caliber was perfectly aware that the word is usually spelled camaraderie.  So the misspelling must be intentional.  But why?

The way it’s spelled here recalls the word “comrade,” which in 1950s-era America had very specific connotations, Soviet connotations.   Now, the novella in which this quote appears is not about the Cold War, or about the Soviets.  Or is it?  It’s about classicism and love in upper middle class Jewish families. Digging a bit deeper, it’s about the insecurity of those families who’ve made it, and how they construct bulwarks around their hard-won security against the world’s attacks.

So perhaps Roth’s choice of this unconventional spelling is making some kind of statement  about detente and mutually assured destruction.  I could construct an elaborate theory about Roth’s decision to misspell this particular word and its meaning in the context of the overall work.

Or I could just look up the word and discover that both spellings are accepted in English.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s