If there is a defining thread that runs through Jewish-American literature it is in the ability of writers such as Bellow, Heller and Roth, and other less familiar names such as Alan Isler and Elinor Lipman, to intermingle pain and humour seamlessly. When Jewish writing is tragi-comic, it is often not a case of alternating between one state and the other, more that the prose can be simultaneously dark and light, serious and funny. Shalom Auslander comes directly out of this tradition.
Certainly, Sutcliffe isn’t the first to note that Jewish literature often specializes in the intersection of tragedy and laughter, though this is hardly a Jewish American invention. It’s often cited as a defining feature of Yiddish literature, as well.
Even more interesting are the two names Sutcliffe cites alongside Bellow, Heller, Roth: Alan Isler and Elinor Lipman.
I must confess that I’ve only heard of these writers in passing and never read anything by them. Which isn’t to say they’re not wonderful writers. They may very well be.
(Indeed, Isler won the 1994 National Jewish Book Award winner for his first novel, The Prince of West End Avenue, which was also a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist).
But the examples of Isler and Lipman did seem a bit random. Anyone out there know more about these writers?