Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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HOROWITZ / PORTNOY S SISTER
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He mourns the falling apa r t o f traditional ways — marriages
reliably b rokered , for example — for the allure o f modernity.
Roiphe’s Annie Johnson , on the o the r hand , mourns the d an ­
gerous allure o f the old ways, an allure tha t she fears blinds
h er d augh te r to its constricting practices. In Malamud’s story,
the liberating erotic possibilities o f the new world bring also
an intellectual and cultural liberation. T he matchmaker, who
perpetually smells o f smoked fish, cannot compete. In Roiphe’s
novel, however, A nd rea moves away from the chaos o f explosive
erotic encounters, into the safety o f a repression tha t corrals
bu t does no t destroy sexuality and sexual desire.
Unlike the ruby slippers o f Oz which take one safely home
and back to the hum d rum o f Kansas, Stella’s red shoes emblem­
ize the draw o f the m odern world, whose passion proves more
compelling than the familiarity o f tradition. A nd rea’s red spike
shoes similarly signify h er erotic freedom , the post-feminist sex­
ual liberation she was born into; tha t she now wears the shoes
only in her m o the r’s memory marks h er movement from tha t
freedom into the world o f
tseniyut
(feminine modesty) and a r ­
ranged marriages. Leo’s rush to meet the “wild” woman in the
red shoes connects with a larger movement, in Malamud’s fic­
tion, from traditional Jewish communities into the secular, in­
tellectual world. A nd rea’s repud ia tion o f h er red shoes betokens
h e r flight from tha t world — h e r m o the r’s world — back into
a traditional community.
I focus on the red shoes in these two narratives not only be­
cause I find them an interesting bit o f intertextuality. T he re ­
versal marked by the donn ing or the doffing o f the red shoes
serves also as an emblem o f the d iffe ren t attitudes toward J u ­
daism and Jewish practice tha t characterizes on the one hand
male Jewish writers o f Malamud’s generation , and , on the o the r
hand , contemporary Jewish women writers. As symbol o f the
seductive appeal o f the de-Judaicized world, the red shoes in
Malamud’s narrative link a liberated eros with a liberated in­
tellect, figuring secular America as an alluring female to be con­
quered , to be en tered . T h e contested valuation o f the red shoes
in Roiphe’s novel, and the possibility o f the veiled female body
as the site o f sexual desire and agency, in terroga te tha t equation.