Larry David, the Schlemiel, and Holocaust Humor

Larry David’s opening monologue for SNL – which included a joke about picking up girls in Concentration Camps – was contested by many on Twitter and elsewhere.  The harshest criticism came from Thane Rosenbaum in his piece for the Los Angeles Journal entitled “Larry David Goes One Cringe Too Far.”   Reading some of these articles […]

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. […]

What Happens When An Idiot Reflects on a Beheading: On Dostoevsky’s Reading of the Death Sentence and Certain Death in “The Idiot”

We can have little doubt that most Yiddish writers read The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. And it is odd that, up until now, few schlemiel theorists have looked into the parallels between Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin (“the idiot”) and the schlemiel (which we find in writers like Mendel Mocher Sforim, I.L. Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem).   The […]

I Want to Start Again: The Schlemiel, Bad Luck, and the Desire for a New Life (Starring Walter Benjamin)

The desire for change and a new life is fundamentally human.  And oftentimes the desire to start a new life is based on the fact that one is beset by bad luck.  To be sure, this is a theme which many Jews are familiar.  Bad luck seems to follow Jews around.  And, as a result, […]

The Other (American) Side of Failure: A Few Words on Delmore Schwartz

Delmore Schwartz’s fiction and poetry – which has its fair share of schlemiels and schlemiel moments – has been of great interest to Schlemiel Theory.  His schlemiels offer a nuanced reading of this character which differs in many ways from its European cousins.  Indeed, what I find in Schwartz’s schlemiel is an American variety of […]