An American Jewish writer’s brilliant takedown of our collective fixation on American Jewish writers. Arts reporters, he’s talking to YOU!
It may well happen like this:
You’ll be sitting in the Pain Quotidien café enjoying a cup of hot apple cider. A reporter seated across from you will consult her notepad.
“So, how does it feel to be a Jewish writer?” she’ll ask.
You’ll sip your cider, then say you’ve never thought too hard about that. You’ll offer that you were born Jewish and you’ve been a writer for eons, so sure, you’re a Jewish writer by definition, but that’s just one fact of your life. Like you’re five-foot-eight or you moved out of Chicago but still enjoy double cheese dogs from Wolfy’s Red Hots.
If you’re feeling erudite, you’ll quote Saul Bellow, an author you don’t enjoy as much as people sometimes assume: “I’m well aware of being Jewish and also of being American and of being a writer. But I’m also a hockey fan, a fact which nobody ever mentions.”
You’ll say when you were a kid, you liked hockey too.
Or you’ll crack wise about Dave Parker, the Pittsburgh Pirate who wore a Star of David because he was a star named David.
Finally you’ll admit you just don’t feel comfortable being labeled in general. And when someone calls you “Jewish writer” specifically, you sense they’re categorizing, ghettoizing, marginalizing, perhaps even circumcising. When you’re reading your favorite writers, you tend to forget they’re Jewish or gentile or anti-Semitic (though when you’re reading D.H. Lawrence or Jose Saramago, that last one’s hard to forget).
“You seem ambivalent,” the reporter will say.