It seems like nonsense anointing this writer as the torchbearer for Jewish writing. To be a Jewish writer you have to actually have a connection with Judaism. Otherwise what is left is a “culturally” jewish writer or a Jewish writer by sense of “nation” but not a jewish writer in terms of a locus of spirituality within art. In this way Howard Jacobson is considered a Jewish writer. But Jacobson is an avowed atheist, and because of this disconnect can,t be a considered a jewish writer. Personally, he may be an engaging fellow, even entertaining, but his writing cannot be considered jewish in any way. Personally, I don’t find it very good either, in fact its often obnoxious and borderline anti-semitic and shows that Jacobson is winging it most of the time, and has little real insight to what he is propounding on. Its song and dance material for people that don’t know much.
At the other end, an A.M. Klein is unconditionally Jewish writing, willing to explore the contradictions between darkness and light at a profound level with his ear to the Torah. Chaim Potok is a Jewish writer, a creator of vivid characters disengaged from materiality and touching us with a sensibility that could carry a young adult through rough patches on the road to maturity. And of course there are many in-betweens. The latest atheistic/agnostic jewish writer is really more a paen to the holocaust industry and the kind of secular judaism that finds its natural habitat in well written, but sterile and frankly violent style of Vanity fair; the Michael Lewis school of commercial craft.
The latest shill who is being hyped and pimped is Nathan Englander, the “right one” to fit into the mold of capitalism’s entertainment complex. Another example of our modernisms tendency to idealize form at the expense of the human and values of the communal. Its extremely well written, like someone in the Academie Francaise, but the form predominates. Its simply not possible to “reflecting the orthodox jewish faith he has personally renounced.” and “the torch of Jewish-American literature passes from one….” Rabbi Akiba and normative Judaism aside, the Jewish sense of the human, the concept of humanity is very ancient when compared to modernist formalism, which is inherently short lived since its commercial product with an expiry date; why should modernism take precedence over a five thousand year development, rather than vice versa? He calls his personal history, “deeply, deeply, wildly jewish….it’s all about jews, but i deflect the idea of it being jewish literature… the tradition I’m writing in doesn’t weave that way.” Something is amiss here. Something like cannon fodder for Adorno’s culture industries or the new marketing where literature becomes an infomercial, and the title “What We talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”…. can”t we leave her alone and stop leaching the carcass. It began with her very peculiar father Otto, a story in himself, and her subject has been milked enough. Enough Already Nathan.
It’s been pointed out by many that there is a paradox of the jews. By definition a pure spiritual people,credited with discovering the oneness of god,the unity of god. The unity of the sacred. Yet, jews have been forced to adopt and assert a materialist instinct in a world which may blather on about spirituality, refuses to engage with instinct and showing signs of being unconditionally human, and therefore a spiritual being.Spiritual consciousness is the bridge too far, something our market based economy can never afford.
( see link at end): It would be a camp poem by not being a camp poem.” Mandel’s theory of derealization, disorientation, and fragmentation echoes not only Alvarez’s suggestion, but also Klein’s epigraph to The Second Scroll, “Where shall I find Thee?” This kabbalistic quest becomes more acute during a period of God’s eclipse when absence dominates the universe so that the question about God’s whereabouts may be displaced by the poet’s linguistic question: where shall I find the words to express this absence? Fragmented verse and negatives begin to explore a poetics of absence where memory must somehow fill the historical void created by genocide and deicide. Through Alvarez’s oneiric techniques that displace Europe during the forties to Canada at a later period, Canadian Jewish poets find their language for this nightmarish world without values.Read More:http://canadianpoetry.org/volumes/vol20/Greenstein.html…
…Drawing on a poetics of absence, Layton dramatizes the hide-and-seek relationship between himself and his neighbour, poet and ex-Nazi, victim and victimizer, in order to comprehend the latter’s guilt. In the first stanza the poet plays blind man’s buff with “scarred bushes” — the child’s game sugesting the blind fate awaiting those hunted, innocent Jews in European woods, and preparing for the “sacrificial smoke” at the end of the poem. In addition to the disguise of the child’s game Layton makes extensive use of similes to equate th
h indirection the poet’s experience with anti-semitism and his relationship to the ex-Nazi, for the same reason that he develops contrasts between darkness and light, blindness and revelation:
I come sharp at this unguessed-at pole
Spooky as an overturned ambulance;
Like a sick anti-semite
The morning struggles to reveal itself.
The blind poet’s strong visual sense creates a macabre surrealistic atmosphere as he suddenly discovers a pole (possibly a Pole) that conceals hidden meanings and deaths. Who would have guessed that an ordinary neighbour could once have been a Nazi? Evoking Eliot’s image of the evening spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table, the second simile prepares for the stanzaic progression from morning to night to noon when revelation of guilt and absence occurs. (ibid. see link above)