While Christians may be complaining that there is an absence of Christianity in today’s fiction, American Jewish literature is undergoing something of a revival, writes Dara Horn in the New York Times Book Review (Sept. 1). Last year a cover story in the book review argued that Christian themes are sorely lacking in today’s fiction, but Horn writes that “there doesn’t seem to be any corresponding dry spell among contemporary Jewish fiction writers.”
She cites such recent novels as Witz by Joshua Cohen, “which features an apocalyptic scenario where the main character, born as a fully grown and bearded man, becomes the world’s last Jew, and The Frozen Rabbi, by Simon Rich, in which a Jewish teenager in Memphis discovers a 19th century Hasidic rabbi in his family’s basement. Horn argues that the Jewish literary resurgence may be because “in Judiam, faith in itself is largely built on preserving memory . . . Commanded by God dozens of times in the Hebrew Bible to remember their past, Jews historically obeyed not by recording events but by ritually re-enacting them, by understanding the present through the lens of the past.”
This tendency to seek out historical patterns and memory comes naturally to writers, many of whom are nontraditional or even secular Jewish writers.