“If I’m out of my mind, it’s alright with me” – Revisiting Saul Bellow’s Moses Herzog

In an essay for The New Yorker on Noah Baumbach’s films, Ian Parker informs us that Baumbach read Saul Bellow’s Herzog and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint before writing the screenplay for Greenberg.   Of the two schlemiels we find in Bellow and Roth’s popular novels, however, Greenberg has more in common with Bellow’s Moses Herzog than […]

Schlemiels Don’t Adapt: Saul Bellow on Sholem Aleichem’s Characters

Citing the traditional joke about the schlemiel who spills the soup on the schlimazel, Ruth Wisse, in The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, argues that the schlimazel “happens upon mischance” and “has a penchant for lucklessness”(14).  But “the unhappy circumstances remain outside him”(14).  In other words, the schlimazel’s comedy is situational.  The schlemiel, however, is different […]

Jews Gone Wild: The Adirondacks in the Imagination of Ben Katchor and Saul Bellow

As a Jew who was born and raised in the Adirondack foothills, I have always been curious as to how my Jewishness was different from my relatives and friends from New York City.  Both of my parents were born and raised in New York City, so this difference, so to speak, hit home.  My father […]

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 […]