Jonathan Franzen’s Jewish Mistake

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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