Jonathan Franzen’s Jewish Mistake

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Over at Tablet, Marc Tracy takes a “Jewish” look at Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming novel, Freedom, and quibbles with its representation of a Jewish neoconservative Thanksgiving dinner.

While I agree with Tracy (and pretty much everyone else) that Franzen’s new novel is remarkable, I must quibble with Tracy. Franzen’s neocon dinner is not his greatest Jewish faux pas in Freedom. That distinction must go to a scene in which two of Franzen’s characters visit the Diamond District in New York looking for wedding rings.

On page 417, Franzen writes:

They went into the first deserted-looking jewelry store they came to on 47th Street and asked for two gold rings they could take away right now. The jeweler was in full Hasidic regalia — yarmulke, forelocks, phylacteries, black vest, the works.

The problem? No Hasid would be working in his phylacteries (what we call tefilin), which are — these days — donned only during the morning prayer service. My guess: Franzen confused tefilin and tzitzit and grabbed the English word for the wrong one.

Posted on August 25, 2010

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One thought on “Jonathan Franzen’s Jewish Mistake

  1. A. Shay Gitz

    Thanks–I had marked this one myself, and had the same thought about what he “meant” to say. Franzen, I’m told, is not Jewish–from this slipup,I had figured either that or *very* secular.

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