Last morning of vacation. I’m not going to spend it blogging.
But this is a reminder to me to return to this.
My pulse raced when I saw it.
I stayed up last night finishing “American Pastoral,” so I’m keyed up about Roth anyway. And then there was the biography news.
You might find this interesting then…
Thanks for this precise and excellently-shaped article. Perhaps it will be the “germ” for a novel.
I must say that at this point, 9/8, Roth should have little complaint about the entry at wikipedia.
Nonetheless, and although his lengthy discourse on Anatole Broyard seemed gratuitous, his letter to the New Yorker was interesting reading. The persecution of his friend Tumin was ironic, because Tumin was in fact a “civil rights activist,” and dedicated as an academic to the social-scientific-ization of race relations, de-segregation, “stratification,” inequality, etc. Roth, while noting the irony that the liberal Tumin fell victim to modern degenerate liberalism as rabid, neo-Puritanical, celebration of diversity through thought control, refers to Tubin’s persecutors only as non-partisan “powers of the moment.”
Another irony is that while Tumin fell victim to black nationalist fervor coupled with white Ivy League cowardice, Roth himself remains particularly concerned with his Jewish particularity, and its alienation from and/or by the former powers of the moment; i.e. WASP Americans. So, his new biographer claims he, the biographer, had first to demonstrate to Roth how a “gentile from Oklahoma” is qualified.
I knew the director of the film “Goodbye Columbus” when he was in the process of divorcing his first wife. His father had completely broken off relations, not a word spoken, because the son had married a goy-ess. (I don’t how the divorce may have affected that unfortunate situation.) Whether opposed to diversity for its sake or in favor, its practical as opposed to theoretical attributes are not all positive. Diversity in one’s family or in one’s own sense of “identity” is especially difficult and problematic, as I bet Anatole Broyard might agree.
My father came from Orthodoxy (Jewish) married my mother, who came from Sicilian (Catholic.) And when I informed my dear mother in the early 1980s that I was dating a woman of color, she responded that this was not a good idea and further, that the kids would be hurt and confused. I paused a moment, then responded, “But who am I?” I would prefer to leave buried the remark that my father expressed when I told him.
I am always amazed when lessons are not learned in ones own lifetime.
My students can, of course, see the problem with relying on the authority of a religious tradition. Most of them have rejected the idea of the good life with which they were brought up. In their communities, a good life is a life devoted to serving God. This is accomplished through study, meticulous observance of God’s commandments, and devotion to the Rebbe, who helps the community get in touch with the divine. The desires of the body, by contrast, are strictly regulated, lest they distract from the task of worship. “But if you think that this is all wrong, why don’t you just leave the community?” I can’t help but ask.
One reason is practical: When the last layer of faith finally falls away it’s usually too late. As Isaac puts it, “By then you speak mainly Yiddish, you’re married, have children, and you’re a talmid chakham (rabbinic scholar) with no marketable skills.” Jacob—who like me is in his late 30s—misses one meeting because of his twentieth wedding anniversary. (I haven’t yet reached my second.) When he got married, he was a brilliant yeshiva student, poised to become a community scholar—”the dream son-in-law,” he says ironically. “You know what I asked for as a wedding gift? For my father-in-law to pay for ten more years of Talmud study!” They all know of people who could no longer bear the cognitive dissonance and left the community. “But none of them managed to build a happier life outside,” Jacob says.
Easily the best media story this week is the spin on the Arab Spring and Obama’s anti-Israel politics. The National Review talks about Obama’s Abandonment of Israel. Or is it all the work of Romney’s Arab-baiters as suggested at The Nation? Or is it the ghost of Bill Casey heralding another ‘October Surprise’ for a disconnected Democratic President?
Spin doctors are in love controlling all that messaging this week.
This could implode if Obama can’t push his open and affirming diplomacy and religious pluralism without taking sides before the election.
Obama ran into a problem with this in 2007 when in Hartford and wouldnt’ distance himself from the UCC’s pro-Palestine stance and planned disinvestment from Israel. The appointment of Rahmbo healed that breech.
There is a Philip Roth story in there somewhere. The story of secular American Jews who vote for the man that enables the downfall of Israel in the wake of the Arab Spring. It doesn’t happen overnight of course. The anguish must have some time to fester and rot a bit before the protagonist can finally admit that they need the Democratic Party. But not Israel. Voting Democrat? That’s like fine caviar. Supporting Israel? Meh. That’s more like chopped liver. The crazy uncle in the closet.