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The New Jew Canon: The Plot Against America

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or email. Title: The Plot Against America Author: … Read More

By / August 11, 2008

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or email.

Author:

Philip Roth

Description:

Only a fool, or a Ph.d, would even attempt to name a short list of essential “Jewish” books (maybe I’m just bitter; it’s been several centuries and I’m still working on my masters thesis). In any case, I’m already in big trouble, because I’m one of those sad cases who has trouble reading anything written before 1955. Especially if it is over 300 pages.
So even though reading Jewish books is essential to my wellbeing, I’ve somehow managed to narrow my own field by approximately 2,950 years. What can I say, except that these books have been essential to me? (Meantime, for info about those approximately 2,950 missing years, go to Zachary Baker’s bibliography a couple years ago of the 1000 best Jewish books; or The Schoken Guide to Jewish Boggs, edited by Barry W. Holtz (1992).
It is not incisive commentary to say Philip Roth, like David Mamet, has been a sexist pig dog in his past. He has been. It has also been suggested that Roth, in the sunset of his career, must be juicing himself on the literary equivalent of steroids. What but a performance-enhancing elixir could explain Roth's inspired twilight work such as American Pastoral and Everyman? Yet The Plot Against America will be the Roth novel most remembered and re-read, as he details what happens to a Newark Jewish neighborhood when Charles Lindbergh is elected President in 1940.
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Neal Karlen is a long-time contributor to The New York Times. He was an Associate Editor at Newsweek and Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone. He has authored many books, including the recently published The Story of Yiddish: How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews (William Morrow, 2008).

The New Jew Canon is a long-term project that seeks to canonize essential Jewish (and some Non-Jewish) reads as recommended by extraordinary rabbis, experts, and cultural leaders. Suggestions are welcome via comments or tips. For more New Jew Canon recommendations, visit Jewcy's New Jew Canon Listmania.

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