Was the Golden Age of the American Jewish Writer the Result of a Jewish “Literary Mafia”?

For roughly two decades in the middle of the 20th century, Jews were among America’s leading writers of fiction—think Philip Roth, I.B. Singer, Cynthia Ozick, and Saul Bellow—and among its leading literary critics. At the same time, numerous Jews played prominent, and not-so-prominent, roles in the world of publishing and journalism. Such distinguished Gentile authors as Jack Kerouac, Gore Vidal, Mario Puzo, and Truman Capote at various points even complained of a Jewish literary mafia. That is the title of a new book by Josh Lambert, a professor of English and Jewish studies at Wellesley, in which he wonders if Kerouac et al. were on to something. Jesse Tisch writes in his review:

Lambert is concerned with the not-so-innocent side of success: how Jews wielded power. To Lambert, power is suspect, a tool of exclusion, and his chapters brim with instances of cronyism and nepotism. Many seem benign—Jewish editors helping Jewish writers. . . . This might seem generous, even selfless, but Lambert suggests something darker—an “ethically dubious” pattern of favoritism.

The Literary Mafia can seem haphazard, but what gradually becomes clear is how the various parts cohere. What connects them, loosely, is Lambert’s sense of mission. In early 2018, Lambert cheered the “long overdue scrutiny” of powerful males “judged and sometimes punished for their sins.” That same spirit—of scrutiny and retribution—quietly propels The Literary Mafia. Indeed, Lambert’s book runs on two tracks, one scholarly, one political. It sometimes reads like a book started during the Obama years, then updated for the #MeToo era.

Lambert has an eye for good characters, for stories with hidden resonances. Power doesn’t always corrupt; sometimes it reveals.

[The book also] raises a final fraught question, namely, “How do we judge what’s good?” To Lambert, there’s no objective standard or even good taste, period. That might sound strange, but Lambert is adamant, dismissing the New Yorker’s fiction editor (with sublime condescension) for claiming to value excellence. Lambert approvingly cites the poet Kazim Ali: “claiming to judge work solely based on literary merit is inherently and inescapably racist.” This seems to be where dogma has led us.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish literature, Anti-Semitism, New York Intellectuals, Political correctness

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7