Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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ROSENFELD / AMERICAN JEWISH LITERATURE
15
the literary essayists and scholars — e.g., Irv ing Howe, A lfred
Kazin, Leslie Fiedler, H aro ld Bloom, etc.)
T h e most in teresting question to raise abou t the fictional he ­
gemony over American Jewish writing is this one, p resen ted most
forcefully by Cynthia Ozick: is fiction (the p rodu c t o f creative im­
agination) reconcilable with Jud a ism ’s deepest and most basic
ideas (or with the fundam en ta l Jewish Idea itself) namely, tha t
God and no t man is C rea to r, and tha t fictional inventions, like all
o th e r assertions o f ecstatic and au tonom ous making, embody the
impulses o f an antithetical ideology and , ultimately, o f a ru inous
idolatry? I f Ozick is correc t in h e r hunch tha t th e re is something
deeply antagonistic to Juda ism in the form o f the m ode rn novel,
then American Jewish literature , so heavily invested as it is in
fiction, is inheren tly working against the grain o f its own genius
and is destined e ithe r to self-destruct at some po in t in the fu tu re
o r to cou r t and develop a wayward fate.
T h e re a re tendencies in the fiction o f Bellow and Ozick tha t are
notable for the ir opposition to fiction-making — in Bellow’s case,
a n a l ig n m e n t o f n a r r a t iv e w ith e x p o s i t io n , r u m in a t io n ,
reflection, talk; in Ozick’s case, the deve lopm en t o f subversive
and self-confounding fictions, inventions d irec ted against in­
venting — and tha t seem to exemplify not only a d istrust o f fic­
tion bu t the germ o f some newly em erg ing narrative strategy o f
opposition to it. Oppositions are no t necessarily alternatives,
though , and whe the r o r no t the re will develop a distinctively Jew ­
ish strain o f story-telling within American lite ra tu re remains to
be seen.
Who will observe it and describe it if and when it emerges? We
will, the searchers and screeners, the sleuths and spotters, the
moles and mapm akers o f literary history. Ju s t how do we do that?
By tun ing in and listening carefully, by looking at and seeing ju s t
what is going on. Note tha t my appeal is no t to what scholars and
critics have come to call “methodology” — an awkward and ugly
word — bu t more humbly to the eye and the ear. I am myself an
enemy o f “m ethodology” and an ido lator o f what I take to be its
opposite — an openness o f m ind and o f style, an unm udd led
clarity o f seeing and saying, good sense and good prose. Can such
a naive “app ro ach ” carry the day? Probably not, bu t then the day
is no t much concerned with lite ra tu re anyway bu t with theory,
ideology, linguistic construc t, “m ethodo logy .” For my tastes,
these are all too impersonal, lacking in any strongly felt presence