Englishness, Jewishness, Saul Bellow—and Martin Amis

With his latest book, Inside Story, the English novelist Martin Amis has attempted a hybrid of fiction and autobiography, using the book to discuss his relationships with various literary friends and, of course, with his father—the novelist Kingsley Amis. While most critics have not been kind to the book, David Herman finds that it has its merits, especially when it addresses the themes of “literary fathers, Englishness, Jews, [and] envy.” Herman finds of special interest the portions of the book devoted to the novelist Saul Bellow, whom Martin appears to regard as a sort of substitute father:

If Kingsley was insular and middlebrow, what kind of literary father was Bellow? American, cosmopolitan, he had found his voice in Augie March, he took on “the deeps”: big issues and big ideas. Bellow was the sort of writer who named one of his most famous characters after a minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses and wrote two novels about friends who had died, Delmore Schwartz (Humboldt in Humboldt’s Gift) and Allan Bloom (the title character in Ravelstein).

Above all, Bellow was Jewish. One of the first conversations Martin Amis describes having with Bellow was about Jews. “Why don’t Jews drink?” Martin wants to know. They soon get onto “anti-Semitic culture,” what Bellow calls “the traditional culture of [Ezra] Pound and Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot.” “Well, two nutters and a monarchist,” says Amis.

Herman contrasts this to Inside Story’s occasional references to the elder Amis’s casual anti-Semitism—or, at least hints of it.

Martin writes in Inside Story about a conversation with his wife. “‘Did you ring the Jews?’” he asks her. “‘Yes,’ said Elena [his wife]. ‘And they’re alright?’ ‘They’re fine.’ The Jews were their daughters (and they were full Jews too, by the way, by the ancient law of matrilinearity, and could simply walk into Israel as full citizens).” If Kingsley was the sort of writer who would write, “Yid” in a game of Scrabble, Martin was the sort who would proudly flaunt his children’s Jewishness. [Yet] Amis never explains why Jewishness was so important to him.

Read more at The Critic

More about: Anti-Semitism, Literature, Martin Amis, Saul Bellow

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy