It is Good for The Jews: The Money Graf

17 May
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour  by Joshua Ferris

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Having just chatted with Joshua Ferris about his third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Reagan Arthur), I encountered what I call ‘the money graf” (a rubric adapted from the world of journalism).It doesn’t happen frequently that I find one small section so vastly more impressive that the rest of the book( I recall a section in Roth’s American Pastorale)but here it is:

You could be a non-practicing Jew and while I was not a non practicing Jew, because I had not been born a Jew and converting to Judaism just to persist in non practice would have been pointless, I could not be a non practicing Christian in any respect. You either believed or did not believe in Christ the Savior nd al his many miracles and prophecies. It was ironic, I thought, to talk about “practicing” Christians, when to be a Christian, you didn’t have todo much at all, you just had to profess your faith , while Jewish people, even non-practicing ones, did more in one single Seder than a full-bore Christian obedient in his pew might do all yea. Whether you were born a Christian or a Jew seemed tantamount to the same thing from the perspective of the newborn, but growing up made all the difference in the world. A Christian could slough off his inherited Christianity and become an atheist or a Buddhist or a plain old vanilla nothing, but a Jewish person, for reason beyond my understanding, would always be Jewish, e.g,an atheist Jew, or a Jewish Buddhist. Some of the Jews I knew… hated this primordial fact, but as a non Jew , I had the luxury of envying the surrender to fate that it implied, the fixed identity and tribal affiliations.


Joshua Ferris (photo: Robert Birnbaum)

Joshua Ferris (photo: Robert Birnbaum)

I didn’t even know if I could say the word “Jew”.It sound very harsh to me, to my Gentile ears,maybe particularly inside my indisputably Gentile mouth. I was afraid if someone Jewish heard me say it, they would hear a reinforcement of stereotypes , a renewal of the old antagonism and hate. It was a minor buy significant legacy of the Holocaust that non Jewish Americans born long after World War II with little knowledge of Judaism or the Jewish people had fear of offending by saying the word “Jew”.

Sandy Koufax (Purloined from the Internet)

Sandy Koufax (Purloined from the Internet)

…all I thought I would ever need to know about the Jews: they’d given the world a son, a southpaw by the name of Sandy Koufax, who pitched three Cy Young seasons for the Dodgers and hated the Yankee’s like a true American hero.

Joshua Ferris (photo: Robert Birnbaum)

Joshua Ferris (photo: Robert Birnbaum)

Currently reading Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas (Picador)

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