The Postmodern Chelm, or The Artistic Community in Sheila Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?” – Part I

I can remember the first time I ever heard a story about the Jewish fool otherwise known as a schlemiel.   What struck me about the story, when I first heard it (when I was six or seven years old), was that the schlemiel wasn’t an independent agent. He lived amidst other schlemiels – in a […]

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 […]

“Travels With Charley: In Search of America,” or John Steinbeck, an American Don Quixote: Take 1

When I was in high school, I realized that to discover America I would have to go off the beaten path. I never thought of my endeavor as comic so much as adventurous.  With a journey in mind, one of the first books I really took to in high school was Jack Kerouac’s On the […]

On Michael Cera’s Film Short: “Brazzaville Teenager”

Michael Cera, who played a main role in Arrested Development (2000-2013) and starred in such films as Superbad (2007), Juno (2007), Year One (2009), and This is the End (2013), recently decided he wanted to direct his own film short. Cera’s film short, Brasserville Teenager, is based on a short story by Bruce Jay Friedman. […]

(Un)Happy Endings: Existential Reflections on “It was ok, an album of comedy by David Heti”

David Heti is an (un)timely comedian. His comedy speaks to a time that is becoming more and more unhappy with itself. (And I mean this in a good way since I believe that such unhappiness will prompt us to come out of our dogmatic slumber…and think.) Unlike many comedians whose jokes are purely scatological and […]

A Kvetching Schlemiel: On Cynthia Ozick’s “Envy; or, Yiddish in America” – Take One

You don’t see many schlemiels in Yiddish Literature or Jewish-American literature that spend most of their time kvetching or complaining.   Schlemiels are better known for being dreamers, not complainers.   They live on air (luftmensches); not hot air so much as the air of dreams.  However, it does happen from time to time that one occasions […]

A Brief Note on Varieties of Schlemiel Experience: Coen Brothers, Gary Shteyngart, and Judd Apatow

As far as schlemiel theory goes, I’ve been writing on a variety of the schlemiels this week.  The differences between them are suggestive.  But, more importantly, I’m seeing that I identify more with one variety rather than another.  And the reasons I have for this identification speak most to what I find, today, most important […]