My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View all my reviews
You know, by virtue simply of reading this book, I belong to a minuscule elite. Most of us are discreet; we are circumspect enough not to try to compose ourselves in words. We know our betters.
But clearly, I suffer incontinence with words. It's not that I wish to join the hyper-elite of authorial authority. I am not so deluded. A kind of public service, merely, though no-one might care to read me. Well anyhow, what could it possibly matter, right? Amazon - which means simply that Bezos takes credit for all it if - Amazon owns Goodreads, owns IMDB, and can therefore funnel your enthusiasms better than I or any other elite reader. It all happens so discreetly. Mars? Really?
Influencers elsewhere make their way by appearing uncomposed, sometimes almost brutish. We elite readers really should control the world, and likely will in case we ever survive our current autocatalytic nightmares. It would make sense, wouldn't it? In a strange way.
But meanwhile, here is a very strange book. I can't really say what I think because I'm not Jewish, and therefore likely have no right. In just the way that Canadians seem to have infiltrated our popular music culture, I am more than comfortable that handsome-looking, even boyishly androgenous self-aware Jews have taken up the best strains of our literature. It all makes for lovely reading.
The strangeness of this book is that it is supposed to contain some, or perhaps just an, actual fact(s). There is an "extra-credit" coda to the book, which is really the culmination, the conclusion, the climax, actually, of the read. This is where he fills us in on the book's inception. The Harold Bloom stuff. Perhaps the reason he's an author and I never shall be.
I only got lore on Bloom because my Jewish girlfriend sold him books. I've never been up on names, myself. Drop them all the time, but nothing to jumpstart a career. And I would never wear little James Joyce glasses. Mine were always the same as Woody Allen's asshole characters.
Anyhow, the very finalmost culmination of the book's conclusion is a verbatim, apparently, of the actual prototype for the character Judy from the book. Now our author here seems to want us to riducule this actual self-identified dyke woman who actually did live with Harold, the man, Bloom for a while. For her, all is patriarchy, even the definition for Jew - what Jewish means - which has powerful ironic resonance with the book. So I don't know, maybe the actual woman was being celebrated. I thought what she wrote had a certain sort of cogency. At least as much as the book's protagonists do.
Meanwhile - and here's my punchline - after letting us know why and how he had to camouflage the book, because it would otherwise hew too close to real, you could actually take the coda and work it all backwards, almost like a <i>roman a clef</i> or something.
Now I thought that was really cool. Plus, he does kind of culminate all our brilliant Jewish authors in his roundabout sort-of definition of what it means to be Jewish. I'd thought he was going to toss the comic shtick, but nope, he almost does Roth one better. To whom this book should probably be dedicated except that I'm guessing Cohen rather looks down on Roth. Which is why only four stars from me.
Brilliant! What can I say?