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January 30, 2005


Jenny D

Your weekly roundup is one of my great Sunday morning pleasures!

I thought the Shalit essay was interesting but highly problematic (and her modesty book is one of my least, least favorite books, did you ever read it?); I really don't like the sort of "authenticity" move she makes. So Nathan Englander's critical of aspects of Orthodox Judaism. But he's a fabulous, fabulous writer (much more interesting, to my mind, than Allegra Goodman, whose books are great fun but don't have the same sharp style that made me love FOR THE RELIEF OF UNBEARABLE URGES even though I never, never, never read short-story collections). And what would she say about the works of someone like Chaim Potok, who as far as I am concerned was an absolutely wonderful novelist, but in many cases highly critical of the ways that religion can distort and deform the coming-of-age stories he tells?

And yes, I haven't read Sam Lipsyte's novel either, but I saw him read on Tuesday with Stephen Elliott & was confirmed in my suspicion that it should go near the top of the pile...


I read the Shalit essay with great interest, too, curious to see if crime writers such as Kellerman and Krich would get a mention. (Of course not!)

The essay reminded me of Franzen's famous piece about what the novel needs, for it seems to suggest you need to be, well, Wendy Shalit or someone like her to write well about the Orthodox community. I don't have the essay in front of me, but IIRC she says that the best work may be done by former outsiders, possibly writers, who embrace the Orthodox life and bring with them their "secular" talents.


YOur review of LOS ANGELES is right on the money. I think the best part is you don't see the end coming. In addition the LA TIMES Book Review also reviews this excellent book. Let hope that it isn't 4 more years till we hear from Smith again.

Jenny D

Laura's analysis is spot on! It's pretty disingenous.... (And I haven't read Krich, but the best of those Faye Kellerman books are really interesting on this topic.)

Naomi D.

Hi, Sarah. Nice blog!

Reading the Shalit piece reminded me that I hardly ever see any mention of THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM by Rebecca Goldstein-- in my opinion, a very good, funny and touching first novel. Sexy, too. The main character is a little like the main character in your latest short story. I've liked some of G.'s other novels better, but this one was probably quite unusual for its time in the way it treated a young Orthodox woman.

Cheers, and keep up the good work!


A wonderful, wonderful novel.

If you tell me you've read A NOVEL CALLED HERITAGE, my head will explode in delight.

Lee Goldberg


Why do you consider Wilbur Smith "a train wreck?" I haven't read his books since I was a kid...but I remember enjoying them.

Naomi D.

I hadn't even heard of A NOVEL CALLED HERITAGE, but I'll read it now. It looks good from what little I can find about it online.

Jimmy Beck

I second Jenny and Laura on the Shalit piece. It smacks of defensiveness and the cheap identity politics from which no good fiction ever emerged. Criticize the Lubavitchers and their self-proclaimed messiah? "Chas veh chalillah." ("God forbid.")

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