Nathan Zuckerman; Soon-to-be Shiksa


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My girlfriend insisted that I read some Philip Roth and gave me a copy of Portnoy’s Complaint. I can’t decide if I should keel over laughing because of its impeccable comedic timing or froth at the mouth because of its meticulous rendering of nearly every stereotype I’ve ever seen of neurotic sixties Jews. But perhaps more importantly: do I need to read something different by Roth, or do I need to tell this wonderful woman that our relationship is simply not going to work? —A neurotic twenty-first-century schlemiel

Your wonderful girlfriend gave you Portnoy’s Complaint, you almost plotzed laughing … so you want to end it? Something tells me I’ve missed a step—but that Philip Roth would understand. So, perhaps, would Nathan Zuckerman, the novelist pilloried for his handling of Jewish stereotypes in his comic masterpiece Carnovsky—and the hero of some of Roth’s best books. Start with The Ghost Writer, in which Zuckerman goes to visit an elder statesman of Jewish letters named Lonoff and finds himself powerfully attracted to Lonoff’s amanuensis, who bears a striking resemblance to … well, I won’t spoil it. You might also consider analysis, if you haven’t already.

I think of myself as a semi-Jew: I celebrate holy holidays when I want to, I’m victim to eating bacon regularly, and I wear dresses so short that all my babushka can do is mutter words under her breath at me in Yiddish. I want to get more in touch with my roots. Not in the let’s-all-go-to-synagogue kind of way, but in a contemporary, fun, reading-of-the-Jewish-writer kind of way. Can you recommend anything for this soon-to-be shiksa? —Anna Kogan

Now just a second. Thessaly, are you making the goyisch interns impersonate Jews for Pesach? Have you got them downloading The Jazz Singer on Torrent? Reading Howard Jacobsen on their iPhones? In the age of Google, anyone can spell schlemiel. Go read Lee Siegel for your sins, and don’t let this happen again!

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