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Three Short Readings on the Jewish Mind

808 words

One of the problems with getting interested in Jews is that they are, well, verbose. Digging into primary texts can become a sandtrap for spare time. Marcel Proust is notoriously dense, Ayn Rand is unending, Bill Kristol is incredibly repetitive, Philip Roth absurdly prolific, and so on. Really plumbing the Jewish mind through their own fiction is, quite frankly, a timesuck. Unfortunately, I suspect this leads many curious parties to lose interest quicker than they should. So for those busy amateur anthropologists of the Tribe, here are three short pieces of Jewish fiction worth taking a look at that won’t swallow up an entire month of reading.

1. “What Kind of Day Did You Have?” by Saul Bellow, in his collection of short stories, Him with His Foot in His Mouth

The story chronicles a day in the life of Victor’s shiksa, Victor being a cranky Jewish intellectual, a cross between a Frankfurt School theorist and an avant-garde art critic. The shiksa worships him entirely, despite only being the mistress of this married man, but he cannot help but be bothered by her. Victor’s feelings towards her serve as a microcosm of his feelings about society at large. He is well-regarded, respected, and his opinion paid for, but he still finds himself bored and annoyed with the world. Remember, it is a male Jewish intellectual who penned this.

Exemplar passage:

Victor had been invited to address the Executives Association, an organization of bankers, economists, former presidential advisers, National Security Council types. Victor assured her that this was a far more important outfit than the over publicized Trilateral Commission, which, he said, was a front organization using ex-Presidents and other exploded stars to divert attention from real operations. The guys who were bringing him to Chicago wanted him to talk about “Culture and Politics, East and West.” Much they cared about art and culture, said Victor. But they sensed that it had to be dealt with; challenging powers were ascribed to it, nothing immediate or worrisome, but one ought to know what intellectuals were up to. “They’re listened to professors and other pseudo experts,” said Victor, “and maybe they believe they should send for an old Jewish character. Pay him his price and he’ll tell you without fakery what it’s all about.” The power of big-shot executives wouldn’t overawe him. Those people, he said, were made of Styrofoam. He was gratified nevertheless. They had asked for the best, and that was himself – a realistic judgement, and virtually free from vanity. Katrina estimated that he would pick up a ten-thousand-dollar fee. “I don’t expect the kind of dough Kissinger gets, or Haig, although I’ll give better value,” he told her.

2. “Dead Doll Humility” by Kathy Acker, from the first issue of the journal Postmodern Culture

Miss Acker, as the above citation suggests, was one of the ultimate purveyors of the anti-culture we call “postmodernism.” Almost all of her writing was a kaleidoscope of violent sexual fantasies, personal confessions, Marxian political criticism, and deconstructionist literary criticism – all with a feminist bent. Perhaps most noteworthy was her willingness to “borrow” very liberally from other writers. Her texts often quoted enormous passages, repeatedly, from famous books so they could be juxtaposed alongside her commentary, whims, and other quotes from other books. As Wikipedia puts it, “She made extensive use of cut-up technique to utilize these appropriated texts in new contexts, often in an ironic manner, focusing on questions of social exclusion and gender role.”

Exemplar passage:

IN ANY SOCIETY BASED ON CLASS, HUMILIATION IS A POLITICAL REALITY.  HUMILIATION IS ONE METHOD BY WHICH POLITICAL POWER IS TRANSFORMED INTO SOCIAL OR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.  THE PERSONAL INTERIORIZATION OF THE PRACTICE OF HUMILIATION IS CALLED HUMILITY.

CAPITOL IS AN ARTIST WHO MAKES DOLLS.  MAKES, DAMAGES, TRANSFORMS, SMASHES.  ONE OF HER DOLLS IS A WRITER DOLL.  THE WRITER DOLL ISN’T VERY LARGE AND IS ALL HAIR, HORSE MANE HAIR, RAT FUR, DIRTY HUMAN HAIR, PUSSY.

3. “Sphincter” by Allen Ginsberg, in his collection of poems, Cosmopolitan Greetings

This poem serves as an example of where it all leads. As with so many others, for Ginsberg, after all the talk of revolution, all the fights against censorship, and all the radical posturing, in the end, he just wrote poems about his own asshole, literally.

The piece:

I hope my good old asshole holds out
60 years it’s been mostly OK
Tho in Bolivia a fissure operation
survived the altiplano hospital–
a little blood, no polyps, occasionally
a small hemorrhoid
active, eager, receptive to phallus
coke bottle, candle, carrot
banana & fingers–
Now AIDS makes it shy, but still
eager to serve–
out with the dumps, in with the condom’d
orgasmic friend–
still rubbery muscular,
unashamed wide open for joy
But another 20 years who knows,
old folks got troubles everywhere–
necks, prostates, stomachs, joints–
Hope the old hole stays young
till death, relax

10 Comments

  1. rhondda
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. I have been noticing the way the Jewish mind works more and more. It is good to know that I was not completely wrong as so many people have told me I was.

  2. Santoculto
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Maybe there are many of them who are non violent psychopaths??

  3. Oleron
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    If one wants an accurate picture of the jewish mind just read “The Protocols Of The Learned Elders Of Zion.”

  4. hunson abedeer
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    “Better to have mentioned that hideous literary fraud Gertrude Stein. A nadir in any culture jewish or otherwise.”

    Oh, be fair. Gertrude Stein is certainly not a writer for the ages, but she did something necessary and kind of brave at the exact moment it was called for. She was not and is not the future of Western literature, but she did something important which needed to be done.

    And come on, the opening sentences of “The Making of Americans” constitute one of the best, ballsiest openings for a novel ever written, despite the fact that the entire rest of the novel is completely unreadable.

    And somebody who could write an opera with the hilarious title “Four Saints in Three Acts” can’t be all bad. The opera itself is negligible, but come on, that title alone is worth it.

    • Sartor
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. Will check them out.

  5. Sartor
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    A mistake to flag Proust in this context. I never think of him as jewish. Just a literary genius and a great European . It was no accident that he considered Action Francaise the best intellectual journal in France. Better to have mentioned that hideous literary fraud Gertrude Stein. A nadir in any culture jewish or otherwise. ( Ginsberg also does have Howl to his credit in spite of much that’s simply trash.) Overall , though the selections are apt. I recall reading some of this stuff at graduate school and thinking what an alien valueless world it projected.

  6. dolph
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    What I have come to understand is that Jews primarily identify as what they are not as opposed to what they are.

    That’s not bad per say – we all discriminate, so there is always something that we are not, correct? We all have identities, and everything that is other than that, we are not that person, that thing, that culture, that nation, religion, class, whatever.

    But Jews don’t have anything that they are! So if you are Jewish, you have to keep on identifying with what you are not, without being able to replace it with anything constructive that you are, without something in your core. Leaving life to a sort of base greed, sex, etc.

    It’s also why Jews are so hard to define. How exactly do you define something that doesn’t really have a definition, that is “no” thing?

    • Santoculto
      Posted May 6, 2017 at 4:56 am | Permalink

      Maybe because Jewish identity is based on purity of identity, against secondary or tertiary (cultural) identity. What make whites into the otherwise path. Whatever what you are, you are a Jew. It’s the final point to the Jewish identity. Among whites, in old or new order, everyone is white, firstly, but the final point is a diversity of identity, proxy to the social/cultural divisionisms.

      Jews can be writers, religious, conservatives, liberals, capitalists, communists, still Jew.

      Whites can be soldiers, painters, writers, teachers , conservatives, liberals, capitalists, communists…. White common or primary identity is dissolved during this process.

    • Bleed the Fine Print
      Posted May 7, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      >”What I have come to understand is that Jews primarily identify as what they are not as opposed to what they are.”

      The void you mention festers inside them for life so that most of their writers simmer with a passive-aggressive madness. In recent years, I’ve concluded that many Jewish “creatives” see their works as darkly material things of rebellion, of brainy ugliness, heavy things left in our world after they’re gone, not of any benefit to society, but in rebuke of it, to spite “WASPs.” To gum up our works bit by bit, book by book, hence their signature verbosity noted by Mr. Collins.

      It is tragic that in high school I was subjected to Wiesel, Salinger, Heller, Ginsberg. Not knowing they were all Jewish (not knowng what that meant). At the time, I briefly researched Ginsberg online, and learned he was a pederast. My shock was eagerly dismissed by my then-teacher. She informed me that he was a “beatnik,” you see, they were all “free spirits.” Ginsberg being in Bob Dylan’s famous musc video, which was airing on MTV for some reason, confirmed my suspicion that (((Dylan))) too was a puny phony, hiding in plain sight. A tiny redpill for me.

      I will give Jewish writers credit in their collective dedication to a resigned victory by way of subversive, deconstructive destruction. Their writing scurries and flinches and slinks, like a nerd burdened by white jocks, but internally wishing vile death upon them. They always make it to the end of the locker hall. Where glowing awards and reviews await from their tribe. They write anti-books. Books that loathe the trees they were printed on.

  7. Matthias
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Archetypically Jewish, almost caricaturesque.

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