Four Jewish Comic Novelists
After Claude by Iris Owens. NYRB Classics (reprint), 2010, 232 pp., $14.95,
The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick. Vintage, 1998 (reprint), 256 pp.,
After Birth by Elisa Albert. Mariner Books (reprint), 2016, 208 pp., $14.95,
kaddish.com by Nathan Englander. Knopf, 2019, 224 pp., $24.95, hardcover.
If your enemy is laughing,
how can he bludgeon you to death?
In the titular essay of Adam Kirsch’s essay collection Who Wants to Be
a Jewish Writer? the critic and poet recounts the ways in which many of
his and my canonical forebears rejected the moniker. He quotes Philip
Roth referring to “American Jewish Writer” as an epithet. Saul Bellow
was slightly more diplomatic, saying, “I have tried to fit my soul into the
Jewish-writer category, but it does not feel comfortably accommodated
there.” Lionel Trilling couldn’t find “anything in [his] professional intel-
lectual life” that traced back to his Judaism.