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Jew Vs. Jew: Jonathan Ames Vs. Jonathan Safran Foer Vs. Gary Shteyngart Vs. Fran Lebowitz Vs. Jonathan Lethem

Who is the new face of the Jewish literary world? This pit battle will hopefully figure it out. Read More

By / March 28, 2011
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His television show, Bored to Death, is a hit in the US, and is about to make it’s UK debut. We considered his book, The Extra Man, one of the most essential works of Jewish fiction of the last hundred years.  Now the rest of the world is proclaiming that Jonathan Ames might in fact be the x-rated version of the man himself: Woody Allen.

In essay after essay Ames made a literary splash by putting his crippling anxieties and sordid adventures out into the world. He is often compared to an X-rated version of the acclaimed essayist David Sedaris. But his persona is more like a Woody Allen figure, if Allen was less concerned about his therapist and more worried about sexual diseases, the risks of alcoholism and prostitutes.

Does this all mean Ames is the face of the new New York Jewish literati?  The successful writing career, the popular television show, and the international praise might have people saying yes.

But does a comparison to Allen help seal the deal?  Woody isn’t just the face of film in New York, he’s the person most people think of when they imagine a hyper-intellectual, hyper-neurotic, funny, literate New York Jew.  Ames certainly has all of these characteristics, and Ames is a heck of a lot younger than the Wood.  In fact, he might be the same age as Woody’s wife/step-daughter, which for the record, still creeps me out after all these years.

Before we crown Ames the new go to guy of New York’s writer elite, we have to acknowledge the competition all gunning for the same title.  I’d pay good money to see them all fight it out.  He would be going up against two other guys named Jonathan (Safran Foer and Franzen), Gary Shteyngart, and for good measure, I’ll throw in Fran Lebowitz, because when (if?) Exterior Signs of Wealth comes out, it will probably be celebrated by nearly every literary publication in the known universe.

Here is how it all breaks down:

Of the two guys who share his name, one already flew the coop to sunnier pastures, so this leaves us with two matches: Jonathan Ames vs. Gary Shteyngart  and Jonathan Safran Foer vs. Fran Lebowitz.

Since Safran Foer is a vegetarian, I’m going to say that one of two things is probably true:

1.  He probably isn’t much of a fighter.

2.  He bruises easily.

So I’m going to say J.S.F. is out.  Not based on his literary chops, but because he has probably never thrown a punch in his life.  The guy definitely taps out before the bell rings.

The battle between Jonathan Ames and Gary Shteyngart would be tough.  Watching professional wrestling in the 80s, I have visions of guys like Nikita Koloff and Nikolai Volkoff kicking ass all over the place; and even though he looks nothing like Dolph Lungren in Rocky 4, Ames might have it in the back of his head what Ivan Drago did to Apollo Creed:

But Ames actually has real boxing experience, and Shteyngart might be too busy worrying about his really sweet apartment to even show up.  So Ames wins this one.

So here we are, the main event: Jonathan Ames vs. Fran Lebowitz.  Will Judge Janice Goldberg (that’s Fran’s character on Law and Order) throw the gavel down on Ames?  Or will the Brooklyn Kid prevail and claim his title?

Result: Nicole Krauss floats in on a balloon, and kicks all their asses.  Nicole Krauss now reigns supreme as the face of Jewish New York Writers.  Her victory speech is as follows:

“Television show?  I don’t need no stinkin’ television show.”

When asked what role her defeated husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, will play, she paraphrase Nicki Minaj: “He can be my king or simply watch the queen conquer.”