The Ironic Moral of the Jewish-American Story: To Be a Big Success, Gary Shteyngart Must Be and Remain the “Little Failure”

Today, on his Facebook page, Gary Shteyngart announced that he is a “nebbish no more” since “The Forward puts me in its Top Five of 2014 list, where I’m the only sort-of-male listed.” The only “sort-of-male” is another name for the schlemiel, the man-child. He is, in other words, the only schlemiel on the list. […]

When is too much…too much? The Exhaustion of Failure in Shteyngart’s Little-Failure-Ad-Campaign

Ok.  Its good to know what someone is doing, but when is too much…too much?  And what happens when what he or she is saying is not particularly that insightful? When it comes to the schlemiel, there is a limit.   Every good writer knows that.  Overkill doesn’t do the schlemiel well.  This is what I […]

Leslie Fiedler on Little People and Jews

When I first came across Robert Crumb’s depiction of Jewish grandparents in the first issue of his Snoid Comics project, I was surprised by the juxtaposition he posed between the big grand-daughter and the small Jewish grand-parents.  It didn’t seem possible that such a big Jewish American woman could come from such small grand parents. […]

Little Tricks: Revising Myths and Warping Fairy Tales in Kafka’s Parables and Sheila Heti’s Postmodern Fables – Part I

One of the major tasks of the modern Enlightenment project is to “demythologize.” As a part of this project all types of myths are challenged. They need not be changed by science, the humanities, and psychology, however. The greatest battling ground for challenging mythology may be in the medium that is used to convey myth; […]

The Death of a Schlemiel, the Eulogy, and The Conversion: Facing Failure Part VII

After the Holocaust, different scholars and journalists have debated over whether the schlemiel is dead or should live on.   Regardless of the debate, however, it is evident that the character has lived on whether in literature or film.   One need only go to the movie theater to see the film Neighbors to see this or […]

Becoming Jewish – Part VI of Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud

Unlike any author in Jewish-American or Yiddish literature, Bernard Malamud closely traces the process of a non-Jewish character’s becoming-a-Jew. But what makes Malamud’s treatment so fascinating and thought provoking is the fact that Frank, an Italian-American character who becomes a Jew, is that Frank is inspired to become Jewish by virtue of a schlemiel. His […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part III

One of the most important things about Frank is his timing. To be sure, Frank comes out of nowhere. But he does so after Bober is held-up, beaten with a gun, and hospitalized. He comes, like a Saint, to assist him. However, as a reader, one cannot help but wonder if Frank, who is described […]