29 June 2008

Bernard Malamud

In the June issue of Commentary, there's an article by Cheryl Miller, "Why Malamud Faded."

The premise of the title is simple: in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, American letters was possessed of three very prominent Jews (both by background and thematically), amongst its authors of prose fiction. This triad consisted of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and Bernard Malamud.

Roth was the kid of this group. Malamud was born in 1914, Bellow in 1915, and both are now deceased. Roth came into the world in 1933 and amongst us still.

Roth criticized both of his elders in an essay in 1974, "Imagining Jews," which Miller quotes.

Roth said there that Malamud paints any of his Jewish characters as "innocent, passive, virtuous and this to the degree that he defines himself as or is defined by others as a Jew."

This gave to Malamud's work "the lineaments of moral allegory." Roth wants none of it.

Miller quarrels with this reading of the differences among the troika, but she doesn't doubt that there are important differences, and that in terms of the history of taste, they've so far worked in Roth's favor against Malamud.

I summarize all this because I enjoy listening to deep things being argued about, I suppose. I'm not sufficiently erudite to make any observations on Malamud here. And I've read only two of Roth's novels, so I won't pontificate on him either.

I would guess, though, that the tides of opinion will continue their movements which, being tidal, have ebbs as well as flows. Malamud, in short, will have his day.

1 comment:

Long shot said...

Matthew 22
[35] Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, [36] Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Revelation 22
[15]...and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

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