Philip Roth has died.
How can you tell? The Goyim and their collaborators are blowing his limp dick like a shofar.
Roth was an apologist for and collaborator with the regime. His trajectory from wise guy and literary borscht belt stand up, on the fringe of paranoid terrified conservative (keep your head down so they don’t kill us) post Holocaust American Jewish culture, to establishment token and establishment tool, is a perfect illustration of systemic bigotry.
Portnoy’s Complaint made sense as a cultural event because by the time Roth wrote it there were Jews who didn’t feel the need to remain silent, or the terror their parents and grandparents felt even when they were silent. That the book contained one of the greatest examples of the antagonism, inferiority, jealousy and ambivalence so many American Jews feel towards Israel we shall turn to shortly.
But because history is a trickster and because as a rube from Newark, who wanted to make it and be accepted by the we have made it Jews of Manhattan (no accident that the reactionary neo racist damp squib Writing American Fiction appeared in the rabid anti left Commentary of grand rabbi Podhoretz) Roth ended his days as the Golem of establishment Jews and as the Magical Jew the Goyim rubbed for luck.
The irony of course is that Roth originally scandalized a segment of the establishment Jewish community as a subversive, who was exposing Jews to ridicule and that ridicule the establishment believed could easily lead to violence. Jews who had survived the Holocaust and people with vivid memories of the war, and firsthand experience with America’s deep-seated hatred of Jews, looked on Roth as not just a lunatic, and a shonda, but as a dangerous combination of both, who might just spark a pogrom. The public burning of the Rosenberg’s and the relatives waking in the middle of the night screaming about Nazis, were all fresh in the collective memory when Roth came upon the scene.
But Roth’s goal all along was gaining admittance to the New York Jewish establishment – Podhoretz & Co – the anti-left Jewish cultural rabbinical court who loathed Trotsky, Lenny Bruce and Allen Ginsberg (and not necessarily in that order) and anything that smacked of being genuinely subversive.
For the establishment Jews Roth needed to dance and he did, coughing up Writing American Fiction in 1961 for Commentary, and establishing himself as an uptight, pen up the ass stickler for order and alienation from what would very soon come to be called the counter culture.
In short order Roth, to the pleasure of Rabbi Podhoretz, dismissed The Beats, and ignored Jazz, rock (even in its early phase) and the battle for civil rights, and wailed about the inability of any sane person (Roth and his establishment pals) to contend with the ordeal that was (they insisted) contemporary America.
And among the terrors Roth found impossible to write about? Eisenhower, a man so bland that his secret service nickname (to borrow an old joke) should have been, Eisenhower. As we discussed, at length elsewhere, the idea that Ike was somehow too surreal, too wild, too much a personification of the historical Delirium tremens, is not only an absurd idea, its use by Roth to get himself off the hook of responsibility is both pathetic and stunning in its intellectual and civic irresponsibility. But nearly sixty years later liberals keep regurgitating the essay (more mentioned than read) without stooping to mention that it is a fetid pile of reactionary half-witted bullshit.
And so, what doesn’t he mention?
Not The Bay of Pigs, or Nixon (who, to be fair, he mentions in passing and describes as being too much for his meager imagination to comprehend), and what else is missing from Roth’s dark night of the Newark soul? Not a word about Dr. King. No, the second half of America’s unfinished crusade to right the wrongs of slavery and dismantle Apartheid, don’t get so much as a mention in Roth’s jaw shattering blow job for Commentary because after all, Podhoretz and the gang had decided that, someone would have to go on picking the cotton and if you wanted a table at Elaine’s you better keep your mouth shut about what mattered, and stick to complaining about things of no consequence.
We have dealt with this before (see: The Sea was Angry that Day)*(1) but it is worth remembering that Roth, in order to please Podhoretz, references Edmund Wilson’s inability to read Life Magazine and recognize America – too radical, too far out there; too full of, you know, Beatniks and Negroes, and HepKats smoking reefer.
But this aspect of Roth as citizen conformist is only one facet of his collaborationist personae.
Roth’s greatest achievement is how he offered the polite anti-Semites a good Jew; the Magical Jew they could turn into a fetish and about whom they could say see, whiny and neurotic and weird, and so full of complexes and he does go on doesn’t he! Dah-ling it’s simply to die for I must get one! Contrast Roth then with Woody Allen. They begin as essentially slight variations on the same theme, but Roth never changed and never grew up and Allen did both transcending creating art as a prism for the Jewish experience into creating art that was a prism for the human experience. Allen’s earlier funnier films eventually become Interiors and Purple Rose of Cairo. That he could dip back into the borscht belt was a prerogative and not a compulsion. This is true also of Roth’s greater more important other (Jewish) contemporaries. Ginsberg could write Kaddish but also, Wichita Vortex Sutra. And Dylan could go from Zimmerman to every-man speaking about Abraham and Issac both as a Jew (speaking of and to a foundational Jewish narrative) and as every-man confronting the existential dilemma of a Highway 61 that runs around and through the world, not just the Upper East Side, or Newark.
For the anti-Semites Roth was perfect. He was literate but not difficult like Faulkner, nor politically committed like Hemingway, and not overly literary like the other Modernists and was a domesticated bourgeois writer unlike the previous generation of expatriates with their sojourns into Spanish chaos and Parisian decadence. And unlike the Beats he didn’t dress badly, smell funny, and didn’t do drugs; didn’t chant odd vaguely anti-American Bolshie hymns to the death of capitalism. He didn’t hang out with queers and junkies and wasn’t one himself. And unlike Dylan you would never find Roth hanging with The Beatles smoking them up for the first time.
No sir, Roth was a bourgeois and good Jew and just perverse enough to still be a Kike for the Goys. After all, liver?!? No one in Connecticut would ever do such a thing!
And a word here about the establishment elision of one of Roth’s predecessors, Henry Roth (no relation) whose, Call it Sleep and Mercy of a Rude Stream, depicted the brutal truths about the shell shocked and shattered barbarians who came screaming out of the East European ghettos. No Marc Chagall whimsy for this other Roth and no seltzer bottle humor. In this Roth’s Jewish world there was violence and incest and blood soaked visions, all of which would neither please the collaborationist Jews like Podhoretz or the liberal Jews who wanted to fit in but retain the appearance of being cool hipster outsiders, and certainly such truths would not pass muster with the stealth anti-Semites who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Bund rally but would make sure their country club admitted one and only one Jew – the club’s president’s lawyer or accountant. And of course Henry Roth was, at various times, a leftists and therefore, for a conservative establishment collaborator like Philip Roth, an unperson.
As a result, now that he’s dead, the Magical Heeb gets described by no less an establishment courtier than Joyce Carol Oats, as being the head of the great cultural wave that sprang up in the 1950’s.
Not Ginsberg, not Dylan, not Allen, not Lenny Bruce, but Roth who plowed one furrow, provided a conservative vision of America where assimilation though prone to friction, works, (without reference to Selma, et al) and the Jews are your neighbor but still oddly foreign so you can look at them the same way you look at chimps in a zoo enclosure. And since they are behind bars, you can sleep easy knowing that unlike Dylan and Ginsberg, they are not inciting the unruly mob or the masses to burn your house to the ground.
And when he came to American Pastoral it is the angst of the bourgeois liberal who tells the truth and gives us a neo-biblical story in which a young girl, who he describes as a pain in the ass, who because of the accident of being born at a particular point in time, turns to violence. It is crucial to grant that Roth does not lie but equally crucial is to realize that he leaves out all the other things that are true; the things that created the conditions that made violence logical if still tragically awful.
The rest of the 60s, the horrors of Hoover, and COINTELPRO, the madness of MKUltra, the barbarism of the blunt realities of Nixon are treated as historical versions of yes but and the pause is filled by the liberal as stealth reactionary, who while seemingly disgusted by the conservatives, is in reality as violently a voice of the establishment as anyone who voted for Nixon and the counter revolution. Without Writing American Fiction or with it but in the fabricated Pravda version put out by the hacks at The Guardian and The New Yorker, American Pastoral becomes a definitive statement; an exclamation point at the end of the obituary of the 1960s and the Nixon regime. But with the essay as the starting point for Roth’s reactionary antipathy towards anything that suggested subversion and rebellion against the establishment, not only American Pastoral but his entire oeuvre are revealed to be what they are – the anguished bitter defense of the corpse of America as the exception to history.
And consider as an example of the establishment voice operating as if Writing American Fiction was something completely other than what it is – that other bourgeois establishment voice, The Guardian and its resident liberal establishment Jew, Jonathan Freedland (dealt with previously in The Sea was angry That Day) who announces that Roth’s preoccupation were sex and Jewishness.
Not, a specific corner of a specific corner but the entirety of it, as if Lord Portnoy was the alpha and omega of the subject.
And a word here about the systemic hypocrisy of the establishment media generally and The Guardian specifically.
News flash: Allen Ginsberg, was queer. In both senses.
Were a conservative commentator to say what Freedland has said, and thus erase Ginsberg from history transforming him into an unperson, in a conservative rag standing in equivalence to The Guardian, The Guardian would of course run a piece wailing about the CIS tyranny of the conservative caliphate, and how it continues to blindly oppress the masses.
But that’s just it: the echo chamber at its perfectly calibrated best. Roth ignores the world beyond what he can see, is rewarded for it by an establishment committed to the denial of reality, and then both are applauded for their discussion of reality as if they had in fact embraced the truth. All evidence to the contrary is banished and all discussion that proves the hypocrisy of the liberals is condemned by the liberals, as if they themselves were not in fact guilty as charged of being grandly hypocritical.
And beyond that of course it is crucial to remember (in the face of the establishment hagiography of Roth) that Ginsberg was a vocal champion of civil liberties. He risked prison for the right to be free. He was outspoken about tyranny and fought for freedom. Whatever his shortcomings he was at the barricades and not at a table at Elaine’s with the rest of the court jesters. To be succinct: Ginsberg was in Chicago (with Jean Genet among others) in 1968. Where the fuck was Roth? In fact can anyone point to a single act of American based social activism on the part of Roth? We are often told about his assistance to writers in what was then the East Bloc (a course of action that, in context, raises serious questions about his connection to establishment organizations) but in regards to the crucial issues of American social justice or during moments of international crisis when one president or another was engaged in some imperial or genocidal adventure, where was Roth?
Is there a single example of Roth speaking out publicly against the war in Vietnam? Is there an instance when Roth publicly condemned American apatheid? Did Roth ever say a word about Edward Snowden and mass surveillance?
Here’s Freedland on Roth’s achievement:
Roth examined: “Jewish self-loathing and shame in Portnoy’s Complaint; the polite, dinner-table antisemitism of the English chattering classes in The Counterlife; the complicated ambivalence diaspora Jews feel towards Israeli Jews in Operation Shylock.”
First the assumption that Jewish “self-loathing” exists and that any community-wide sense of being inferior exists separately from being victims of systemic bigotry, which if properly contextualized then changes the narrative from “an examination of what’s wrong with Jews qua Jews” to what’s happening to the self-esteem of a persecuted minority – which, needless to say is a radically different narrative than the one offered by Roth and blessed by the reform rabbi, Freedland.
Secondly, while it is certainly true that the British chattering classes are masters of polite anti-Semitism, it’s a bit rich as a topic coming from a Jew (Roth) who denounced Ginsberg as a fraud and sucked up to Podhoretz who was a courtier to the extreme right of American establishment politics and did so while ignoring Dr. King and the war for civil rights.
And third, the place where Freedland sticks the landing – the so called ambivalence of the non-Israeli Jews.
Consider the Zionist tractor mechanic and kibbutzim hippo Portnoy tries to fuck.
Here you have the confrontation between the newly (seemingly) liberated from the sticks (i.e. Newark) Jew, free to be weird and masturbatory and the early Zionist. And what do we get? She’s a walking talking cliché of what a conservative, intimidated Jew thinks Zionists sound like and who will only fuck for the good of Eretz Yisrael. She’s fat and has hairy legs and she throws Portnoy to the ground like a sack of potatoes or a Cossack or an Arab or some combination of all three. In fact she is not so very far from a Der Sturmer charicture.
And who among the Goyim with their latent anti-Semitism, and among the actual anti-Semites, wouldn’t want a Jew who makes fun of Israel? Which we hasten to add is not immune to sarcasm – but then anyone who has spent time there knows that’s not the issue but rather the issue is the honesty of the criticism and the mark of that honesty is its avoidance of clichés, and the banal.
But better still, who among the liberal Jewish establishment wouldn’t want a Jew who makes fun of Israel?
And here we get to the dark heart of Roth’s appeal to a certain branch of American Jews. Roth represents a segment of the American Jewish community that has and remains intimidated and jealous of Israeli Jews. Freedland tells us in one line that Roth deals with the ambivalence of non-Israeli Jews – but offers no examples precisely because Roth doesn’t deal with it and in fact avoids the truth: it’s not ambivalence but hatred, fear and jealousy.
We mean the swaggering arrogant militarized and sexualized Israelis who make American liberal Jews feel like second class Jews and provoke them into a lather of hysterical hypocritical finger wagging denunciations and an unconditional love for Roth.
Consider that in contrast to Roth’s cliché of the blunt end of unattractive Zionist feminine energy we now have Gal Gadot – literally Miss Israel.
As we have outlined previously (see Gal Gadot and the Palestinian Chicken)*(2) the packaging of Gadot’s Wonder Woman as a feminist icon prevents the traditional criticism of the left from gaining purchase on Gadot as a symbol of Israeli perfidy.
What is revealed though is the situational ethics of moral contortionists who are ready to condemn Israel as a brutal occupying neo-fascist tool of American hegemony, except when sold an Israeli goddess who flips the narrative.
Sexy, and with legs that go on for a week and a day, Gadot lives and breathes the triumph of Jews escaping the ghetto and represents the triumph of the idea that there is an alternative narrative to the American liberal Jews who have chosen assimilation instead of Zionism. And, she presents a quandary that is solved by the age old trick of ignoring the problem and embracing hypocrisy. If Israel is a moral failure as many liberal Jews claim, than Gadot is traif but if she is traif then she can’t be an avatar for new wave feminism. If she’s an avatar for new wave feminism, especially important in the moment of #MeToo and Trump’s Grab’m by the pussy, then Israel, which she represents, can’t be a moral failure.
Oh dear, what is a liberal hypocrite, trapped in a binary conundrum of their own making, to do?
But to complicate this labyrinth even more what do we say about a curious scene in Roth’s novel, Operation Shylock, set in the New Market in Jerusalem.
While walking through the market Roth bumps into a Palestinian who recognizes him. The Palestinian proceeds to berate Roth and all the other “pretty Jews” for their hypocrisy and the ways in which that condemns him to being a second class (not quite) citizen.
Roth takes it all in and the Palestinian comes off (via Roth’s description) as a worthless pedantic snob.
And based on the description the annoying and wrongheaded boor is clearly none other than Edward Said.
It’s all very Rothian; the plausible deniability (you have to really know your inside the game literary players to see that it’s Said), and the stealthy opposition to the left even if in the case of Said the sarcasm is not unwarranted, and still takes in those places where Said’s critique is valid. But the issue is here that Freedland, uber liberal Jew, tells us Operation Shylock shows Roth’s dealing with the ambivalence of non-Israeli Jews when in truth it shows Roth venting personal animosity that supports a completely Right Wing agenda and provides cover for the animosity non-Israeli Jews feel for Israelis.
Which is not to say Said is above or beneath criticism; that one is not free to agree with x or disagree with y rather it is to highlight the trope of the Magical Jew who can be the Golem of whichever party has paid the price of admission. Roth the liberal, Roth the misogynist, Roth the Jew who claims to reveal all about the Jews.
This is down to both the shallow systemic hypocrisies of the media but also down to the shallow hypocrisies of a second rate author. Roth is not to be read in a variety of ways because like, say Pynchon who is multi-faceted and thus open to multiple readings, but because he is an establishment tool with no moral center.
And so back to Roth and his generation of cultural dinosaurs.
The appeal of Roth to the liberal Jews vis Israel is that he offers a rejection of Zionism or at least ambivalence (and not Freedland’s ambivalence as a virtue but ambivalence as a passive aggressive pathology) and in its place a deep connection to New York with New York as a kind of Athens – a city state of sublime sophistication and Israel as crude, boorish and violet, Sparta. This feeds the hypocrisy of Jewish taxpayers whose money supports Israel and whose outrage is directed at Israeli foreign policy but is used as a camouflage for their petty jealousies and fears.
Thus the formulaic mantra that insists Israeli cannot continue the “occupation” of the West Bank and remain a democratic state. Either it must relinquish the territory and accept a Palestinian state or relinquish democracy and keep the Palestinians in the ambiguous status of occupied and stateless.
Notwithstanding that England has occupied (Northern) Ireland for coming up on 500 years and is still more or less a democratic nation (where we note that despite the immorality of the occupation of Northern Ireland, and the political cancer of the long tortured history of England’s colonization of Ireland, no member of, to cite one cultural example, Monty Python was ever locked up for making fun of the government).
Or, that while it is certainly true that America is not a free country, that it is corrupt, and soaked in blood from The Trail of Tears to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and that it is an Orwellian panopticon currently suffering through a bout of political delirium tremens, the fact remains the government hasn’t arrested either Springsteen or Kendrick Lamar.*(3)
The absolute either or construction of the argument, the all-too familiar binary formula is too clever by half. What it clearly reveals is that the non-Israeli Jews who have made Israeli morality their obsession are doing so because they are compelled to dominate Jews who by virtue of not being assimilated, threaten the assimilated Jews feelings of inferiority and fear that assimilation may fail.
But for the liberal Jews, Roth saves the day. His Israel, his Jews, his America all serve to provide cover by insisting they are coherent and linear moral tracks progressing from a to b but are in fact covers for a series of contradictions and disturbing ambiguities. For them, through Roth, Dylan exists but isn’t a Jew and Ginsberg just doesn’t exist or exists but isn’t taken seriously by the establishment, which amounts to saying, he does not exist.
In The Plot against America, Roth offers up a what if – what if neo-fascist Jew hater Charles Lindberg had defeated FDR in 1940? Roth spins out the frightening scenarios but concludes, it didn’t happen and America remains free.
Revisited just a few years ago by the establishment and collaborationist liberal hacks at the New Yorker and given the post Trump opportunity to change his tune, Roth, comfortably stuck in retrograde cultural amnesia and talking as if nothing (not technology or the government’s ability to spy on everyone) has changed since the 70s, goes right on waving the flag declaring we’re not East Germany so it’s all good.
On the one hand, he’s right, as we’ve outlined, we’re not East Germany and neither is Israel, but that doesn’t mean we’re free and it doesn’t mean Israel isn’t being run by a gang of atavistic paranoid bigots any more than it means America isn’t currently watching its institutions being set on fire by a gang of atavistic paranoid bigots.
And notice Freedland, waving the establishment contortionist rewrite of the facts has Roth’s The Plot Against America, as a brilliantly prophetic warning of what has become the Trump reality – except, Roth denied Trump was a dictatorial pig, a professional demagogue and amateur fascist, and Freedland ignores that Roth denied its impact on the nation.
“His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, asked a what if? question. What if America had succumbed to fascism, seduced by a celebrity and media star in the form of the aviator Charles Lindbergh? The novel is a dark imagining of how Roth’s own family would have been gradually encircled by the menace of antisemitic nationalism, picturing who would have fought back and who would have collaborated. The book was powerful when it came out. But it gained new force in November 2016, when the US did indeed fall for an ultra-nationalist demagogue.”
Which helps the anti-Semites and the liberal American Jews cherry pick their outrage and worship Wonder Woman and condemn Israel. They can say, per the old SNL routine: It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping!
This of course is the specialty of the Magical Heeb. He bends reality to allow hypocrites to go right on being hypocrites while claiming the moral high ground.
That American Jews long ago stopped being the step’s fetch it characters of Roth’s limited imagination is ignored by the anti-Semites who need Jews to never change, and the liberal Jews who must maintain their claim to being morally superior to Israeli Jews or risk having to actually confront the price of collaboration with the regime – thus facing the fact that clever signage and pussy hats and one day marches are never going to change a damn thing.
Contrast the establishment view with (ironically) another establishment platform that however offered a stealth subversion of the dominant paradigm. We refer here to, Seinfeld.
Over the last twenty years there have emerged several splits or ruptures between the gatekeepers and the younger (of course they’re younger) generation of Jews.
For example there is Heeb Magazine. The very name suggesting, if not outright proclaiming, this is not your parent’s Passover.
Other splits include Seinfeld which on several occasions offered sly denunciations of Jewish cultural orthodoxy. Among the efforts that more or less flew under the radar, was an episode where Jerry finds himself inadvertently stepping on one politically correct foot after another in his efforts to seduce a Native American woman. These shenanigans culminate in his accidentally enraging an Asian American mailman who accuses him of using a stereotype, when in truth he was just asking for directions to a Chinese restaurant that he recalls is in the neighborhood covered by the mailman’s route.
Later explaining this comedy of errors George asks him if he thinks people are getting to sensitive and Jerry replies: I don’t know but I’ll tell you if someone asks me directions to Israel I don’t pitch a fit.
It is this specific episode and that particular exchange that gave rise to our conception of what we call the Post Seinfeld Jew.
Said Jew is proudly indifferent to the issue or issues surrounding Israel because the culture has grown to realize that Israel has successfully achieved one of its aims – becoming as morally suspect and politically compromised as any number of other half-baked ersatz democracies with systemic corruption, large scale social alienation, and assorted intercine blood feuds between religious and secularism, tribalism and modernity, bigotry and pluralism.
As a result the Post Seinfeld Jew is detached from a sense of group responsibility and treats the foibles and catastrophes of the Israeli government the same way they treat the barbarism of the American or French governments – with an existential shrug based on a sense that when the oceans rise and the air turns to rust it won’t matter if you read left or right or right to left, you’re still going to choke to death on the toxic vapor trail of human stupidity. This in turn exposes the hysteria of the liberal Jews for what it is – hysteria based on their sense of inadequacy and not the moral failures (however real and appalling) of the Israeli political machine.
Another example concerns the far more famous Soup Nazi episode which prompted an Op Ed to the Grey Lady by a Jewish culltural gatekeeper who said that use of “Nazi” in such a manner would detract from the seriousness with which Nazis should be treated. What he really meant of course is that he was in charge of your outrage – ironically – he was saying: No soup for you!
Holding Mel Brooks in abeyance one might still consider that while Nazis were (are) not known for their stand up comedy, they remain among the most hilarious people in history.
That said gatekeeper was also, seemingly, unaware of the irony inherent in asserting that a group of people should essentially be in charge of what other people get to make fun of is itself rather hilarious.
This in turn reminds us of an old Robin Williams joke: Why, he asked rhetorically, are there no Jewish faith healers? (pause) Your leg!?! My arm!
But, we digress.
A still more telling example of this cultural split is to be found in a film from several years ago starring Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman.
Streep plays a (Jewish) therapist in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Thurman plays her patient who (unbeknownst to Streep) is having an affair with Streep’s Son – an aspiring artist.
When Streep finds out she is needless to say, upset. However, what matters for our purposes is that her son calms her down by making two points. First, he says, you’re acting as if we’re in the Warsaw ghetto, and secondly (following from the first) we’re strong in numbers here so calm down.
And lastly, and indeed crucially, there is the extraordinary rebuke to all things Rothian, in Larry David’s Curb your Enthusiasm episode, where Larry has sex with a Palestinian woman who, while fucking him, gets off on calling him a occupying Zionist. Needless to say, Larry describes it as the best sex he’s ever had.
This, is truly subversive and beyond the cheep imitation subversion of Roth.
These are not Roth’s Jews. Which is not to repeat Roth’s mistake and assume only one thing is true. Roth’s Jews exist. They exist and have lives that speak to a particular reality but they do not represent the totality of the wider culture.
Roth was an establishment court jester. His fans are his fans for exactly that reason. They thrive because systemic establishment bigotry is locked in place.
The Golem has died but the Magical Heeb lives on.
3 Which is not to suggest that neither Springsteen nor Lamar don’t have FBI files that could fill a library.
For a look at Freedland’s hagiography of Roth see the link:
In anticipation of the establishment defense of Roth, based on the claim that Roth’s commitment to things like freedom is on display in his novels we turn to a relatively fresh piece of shit bolted to the myth but labeled: glory.
Dedicated to giving Roth a final hand job The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik provides one of the better examples of hagiography in the service of the official cult.
Writing in 2017 ( and wallowing in bitter tears because Dylan had won the Nobel) an essay called Philip Roth Patriot, Gopnik can’t quite bring himself to tell the truth (that Roth was a coward during a time when the nation needed its writers to step up) and, like every other keeper of the flame is reduced to mentioning Roth’s 1961 love letter to Podhoretz, Writing American Fiction.
We say reduced because of course Roth’s output was devoted mainly to establishment pleasing novels behind which he could hide. Absent a fingerprint on the body politic of the country Roth, no fool if still foolish, leaves his worshipers with little that is honest from which to fabricate a legend.
But secure in the liberal caliphate of Manhattan Gopnik is game for the challenge.
Displaying the sclerotic arrogance of a man who knows know other establishment rag will dare question his assertions Gopnik uncorks an utterly disingenuous crowd pleaser – declaring that Writing American Fiction is about a murder in Chicago and the inability of an American writer to write about the contemporary (outrageous) American scene. Which is like saying Moby Dick is about fishing and the inability of the crew to deal with a hostile work environment. This echoes the learn nothing forget nothing pettifogging of Johnathan Freedland who claimed the essay was about the America of JFK, J Edgar Hoover and Dr. King. Except, unfortunately for Freedland and certainly for Roth (as well as Gopnik), none of those people are mentioned by Roth in the essay – because Roth was too busy being unnerved by the otherworldly Eisenhower and the serpentine Roy Cohn.
The essay, more written about than actually read is most certainty not about a murder in Chicago though Roth does start off discussing both that crime and that city. But very quickly the missive evolves into what we have already described – a massive jaw shattering blow job for Podhoretz that was designed to gain admittance for Roth into the establishment of one of New York’s literary covens.
The price of being admitted was Roth’s integrity.
Phrasing the issue with the delicacy required to allow Roth and his supporters to safely exceed the G-force tolerance of honesty, the venerable newspaper, The Forward, describing historian Robert Caro’s limp attempt to dignify an unforgivable absence, said of Roth’s involvement with the Civil Right’s movement:
Well, there certainly is no arguing with that assessment. Nor is there any arguing with Gopnik’s view that the essay ” is a classic of that magazine’s high period.”
Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a better example of amoral shuck and jive either by Podhoretz or Roth.
And so, amid Gopnik’s lathering over Roth’s patriotism, he drops a turd into the truth and ignores the fact that the essay denounces the Beats as mere social climbers in search of lucre derived from best sellers, ignores the Gestapo-esque arrest and trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the manager of City Lights, ignores the writing of Black Americans (with naturally one token exception – Ralph Ellison), and pretends that civil rights is a non issue (in fact, he does not mention it at all) while hyping the, for Roth, staggering unreality of Eisenhower and Roy Cohn – whining that such characters beggar a writer’s imagination and reduce delicate geniuses like Roth to mute cases of the jitters and shakes.
In other word Gopnik and the New Yorker again reveal themselves to be apologists for and collaborators with the regime; liberal hypocrites determined to be both against whatever is on the menu for outraged liberals while at the same time ignoring their complicity in maintaining the tyranny of a corrupt bourgeoisie.
While it is bad enough that Roth’s love letter to America is based on the idea that his lover was not a morbidly obese racist whore with a terminal case of moral syphilis in the form of Jim Crow, and a gangrenous fascist in the form of Hoover but it is even worse to have to listen to The New Yorker spew blatant lies and double down on Roth’s establishment con job which only serves to highlight the depths of the nation’s systemic bigotry and the support it receives from the bastions of our shit don’t stink liberals.
The truth is the essay reveals Roth to be an establishment hack servicing reactionaries who were determined to ignore the festering suppurating wounds of the nation’s soul.
And a word here about Roth’s Our Gang – his satire of Nixon, et al. Oh yes, his defenders will say, surely a perfect rebuttal to the accusation of collaboration and pandering. Except, then that requires them to stop waving the Commentary missive at everyone who accuses Roth of cherry picking his allegiances due to a lack of spine, or it requires them to build a shelter where anti-intellectual and accidental bigot, and wimp Roth can cohabitate with anti-establishment Roth which of course then requires a reappraisal of the man in which his anti-establishment “writer of America” legend becomes far murkier.
Or one could stick with the fact that Roth wasn’t a friend of Podhoretz but a shallow hack who wanted to be admitted to a club and wrote whatever was required with, again, no moral center.
Which then explains why things like Our Gang were the literary equivalent of a squirt gun or a whoopee cushion and not say, a Modest Proposal, or The Public Burning.
The truth is Philip Roth was a collaborator with and apologist for the regime.
See Gopnik’s propaganda here:
And the Forward here:
The hagiography parade continues with a loving tribute to Roth in the Guardian by Martin Amis.
“Roth alienated not just the occasional reader but entire communities, reviled, first, by world Jewry…”
Ah yes, Pastor Amis of course means the monolithic hive-mind of Jews. He of course doesn’t mean the Jews who went to see Mel Brooks’ the Producers (1967 – two years before Portnoy) and he doesn’t mean the Jews who read Ginzberg or Dylan, nor does he mean the Jews who would have hated Roth not for Portnoy but because of Podhoretz, nor does he mean the Jews who laughed at Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl.
Consider this final paragraph of a rather short literary obituary:
“My subjective impression is that Portnoy’s Complaint is still the diamond in the crown. Here the Jewish-American Novel is narrowed down to one idea: gentile girls, shiksas (“detested things”), where ancient laws of purity come up against American womanhood, and the inevitability of material America. In Portnoy all the great themes are there (all except mortality): fathers, mothers, children, the male libido, suffering, and Israel. Roth torches this bonfire with the kind of satirical genius that comes along, if we’re lucky, perhaps once in every generation.”
So again, according to yet another Goy, there are no other Jewish American narratives. And the only subjects that matter are gentile girls, ancient laws of purity yada yada yada.
Not, that those were issues for a segment of the Jewish community but instead they were the only issues So again, Ginsberg remains traif and Dylan is not to be taken seriously and Woody Allen, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Mel Brooks don’t exist or are just not part of the equation. And of course again, so much for the other Roth, Henry, with his too Modernist and too left style – no, the establishment has spoken.
And of course, “Israel” – yes there it is, the reverse sow cow that sticks the landing. Amis knows that Roth knew the subject and no one else had or has anything to say about it because that way the only narrative that exists is the either or binary construction of pro-Israel Jewish american conservatives (Podhoretz, et al) or the “ambivalent” liberal American Jews.
Well thank god Pastor Amis is here to deliver the eulogy and tell us what it all means.
To get a load of Amis’ tripe, see the following:
In the article below notice how not mentioning Allen Ginsberg creates an alternative narrative that allows Roth to exist as a fiction that suits the agenda of the establishment: