On the Jewish Novel

In The New Republic, William Giraldi has a piece titled “Confessions of a Catholic Novelist“. Of the ‘Protestant novel’:

What would a strictly Protestant novel look like? One can comprehend fiction with a Calvinist bent—you see the Calvinist vision of sin in Melville and Hawthorne—but how about a thoroughly Episcopalian or Presbyterian novel? Those mild-mannered, watered-down denominations tend not to warp the artistic protocol of imaginative writers. In multiple regions across this land, and in the Northeast especially, “Protestant” equals “WASP,” which rather conveniently equals “American”—Updike and Cheever are nothing if not unerringly, unflinchingly American.

What is fascinating is the subsequent latent assumptions about ‘Jewishness’ being ethnocentric (racial) and not Judaic (religious) in this passage:

One can be a Jew sans religion, but what would an unbelieving Catholic look like? More to the point, you won’t find a novel by Malamud or Roth or Bellow subtitled “The Adventures of a Bad Jew,” and even if you did, you wouldn’t have to prep yourself to be preached at (revisit Roth’s story “The Conversion of the Jews” to see for yourself).

Admit it: Catholics can be a pushy lot, given to unrequested advice about the state of your soul and the state of your sperm, while Jews have no personal or doctrinal interest in proselytizing—they are not inflected by didacticism, and so they don’t care if you convert or not. The intellectual and dialectical substance of Judaism, wed to the cultural and ethnical elements of Jewishness, rescue “the Jewish novelists” from the pigeonholed perdition into which “the Catholic novelists” are easily tossed.

Yes, Jews have no interest in proselytizing to goyim, but they do proselytize among themselves (e.g., admonishments of the importance to Jews not to marry gentiles; towards the upholding of Jewish traditions; towards the benefit of Israel.)

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