The Permanent Worth of Cynthia Ozick’s Fiction

Aug. 22 2018

With the death of Philip Roth in May, there was much revived discussion of his place in American literature, and in American Jewish literature especially. Yet for all Roth’s talents, writes Ari Hoffman, it will be Cynthia Ozick—arguably the greatest living American Jewish literary figure—who has created work that will withstand the test of time:

It is long past time not just to celebrate Ozick, but to read her. Perhaps the best reason to do so is that, far more than Roth, her work has anticipated the current weather of Jewish life. . . . The audiences that Roth wrote for, antagonized, and played a part in defining are demographically exiting the stage. Jewish fiction, like Jews, will either become more overtly Jewish, or cease to be Jewish at all.

Ozick is the kind of altneu writer whose style will outlast the vagaries of literary fashion. At a time when Jewish writers were enraptured by what Roth called the “American berserk,” Ozick worried and wondered about the content of Jewishness; its books, theology, and art. Most of all, she puzzled over how to be Jewish, and write Jewishly, in English. These concerns once seemed remote, her own ideological cul-de-sac. The fullness of time, however, has revealed her centrality.

Ozick has always been a different, and to some degree difficult, kind of writer. Mostly that’s because she takes religion seriously. For her, art is not a way to flee the synagogue, but to burrow more deeply into its nooks and crannies. While Ozick can write realist prose that rivals the greatest practitioners’, her writing comes alive most when it meets ideas and magic. Her work is filled with golems and druids, rabbis and magicians. Her sentences are well acquainted with the spiritual. . . .

The first thing she offers is a robust roster of female characters: the conjuring would-be-mayor Ruth Puttermesser, the haunting Rosa from The Shawl, and perhaps most indelibly of all Ozick herself; the character who speaks her way into being in [her] essays—slashing, anxious, heretically pious.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Cynthia Ozick, Jewish literature, Philip Roth

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy