Thursday, February 03, 2005

Tova Mirvis responds to Wendy Shalit (but I'm still pissed off at Nathan Englander)

In an article in today's Forward (registration required), Tova Mirvis reminds Shalit that not only does Shalit not have a monopoly on the Orthodox experience, but that it makes no difference: the fact that Mirvis makes things up is what makes it fiction.

To which I say: Tell it, sister.

I'm a bit disappointed that Mirvis includes Nathan Englander in her argument, since Englander does not limit his fiction to his novels. He laces publicity interviews with fiction as well. For example, while I can see how growing up in an affluent Long Island suburb may be stylistically stifling (for anyone, Jewish or not), and he's not the first person to call the suburbs a "cultural vaccum," isn't it going a little overboard to call it a "shtetl mentality," as if he grew up in Williamsburg instead of West Hempstead? Are all the (parent sponsored) pool parties and teenage drinking common in his community indications of "fire and brimstone"? Is it fair to call his HANC (read: Ivy League prep school) education "anti-intellectual"? Or to say that reading literature was his way of "looking elsewhere," when his "fire and brimstone" Orthodox high school includes Shakespeare, Orwell, and Bronte on their reading lists?

He says that "I had no idea that you could spend your life writing fiction, that this was actually an option. Coming from my background, I didn't think it was permissible." Who told him that? His AP English teacher?

Face it, Nathan. When you make up stories to be sold in Barnes and Noble, you're a fiction writer. But when you make up stories to a reporter or your publicist, it's just lies.

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