May 24, 2010

GIVING THEMSELVES SOMETHING TO WHINE ABOUT:

Dystopia & Utopia: Is it time for dystopian novelists to end the reign of the free-market idealists? (Keith Gessen, May/June 2010, Book Forum)

Looking at American fiction of the same time, you see something like the exact opposite phenomenon. Instead of books looking to the future to understand the present, there were big counterhistorical novels: Michael Chabon on Jews exiled to Alaska, Philip Roth on the election of the anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh to the presidency. Nathan Englander, who grew up on Long Island, published a novel about Jews under Argentinean fascism, and Junot Díaz, who grew up in New Jersey, published one about the Dominican Republic. This, too, in its own way, was strange. If the efflorescence of historical-trauma novels in the mid- to late 1990s in the United States could be dismissed simply as the guilt-ridden scribblings of a prosperous, self-satisfied nation that didn't think it had anything else to trouble itself over, these new-millennium histories and counterhistories were something different.

No, they aren't. Faced with the fact that there is no existential tension for Jews in America but longing for it, they just invented places in their own mind and pretended they were possible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2010 6:15 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« AT THE END OF HISTORY...: | Main | YOU CAN MAKE THE GOP ARGUMENT FOR THE MIDTERMS IN JUST TWO WORDS...: »