Hey, Chabon: En garde


Michael Chabon had a piece this week in The Telegraph (not my blog, the British newspaper), discussing his discarded plan to name his new book “Jews With Swords.” Bet he wouldn’t mind taking a stab at Alexander Nazaryan, who ripped the book (actual title: “Gentlemen of the Road”) in the Village Voice:

Chabon’s heavy-handed Hebrew pride might be excusable in an otherwise brisk narrative, but this slim volume packs considerable flab. Hemingway could summon Spain in a single sentence; Chabon spends 200 pages kicking around the Central Asian plain without digging beneath the sun-baked surface. The real culprit here is not Biljan but unabashed logorrhea, with clunkers like “the migraine blaze of day” and the “honeyed hand of a dream” turning every page into a sort of verbal ambush. It’s not unfair to wonder if Chabon, like his Victorian predecessors, was being paid by the word.

But stylistic indiscretions, however irritating, are secondary to Chabon’s inability to treat Jews with the humanity that has so often been denied to them. In Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, the oversexed Alexander Portnoy sears unease into the page with prolonged riffs on masturbation. He may not shed light on the Holocaust, but Portnoy is far closer to flesh than any of the tortured abstractions peddled by the Jewish New Wave. Despite lofty intentions, the likes of Chabon and [Jonathan Safran Foer] are unwilling to examine history on its own harsh terms, parading the Jews as little more than evidence of their own nuanced sensitivity or refined moral palate. As such, their project is no less self-serving than Madonna’s public flaunting of the Kabbalah. But hey, at least the girl can sing.

Hey, Chabon, you going to take that? As you would put it: What are you – a Maccabee or a Motel Kamzoil?

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