Malamud: The Forgotten

From Lee Siegel’s NYT review of the new Bernard Malamud biography by Philip Davis:

Paradoxically, the farther he traveled from his familiar environment, the more confidence he seemed to acquire in returning to it in his fiction. And the more deeply he returned to his past in his imagination, the more confident he felt in strange new places. Though narrowly identified with “Jewish� writing, Malamud seemed to consider his own Jewishness as less an inherited tradition than a portable ethos, a means of accommodating the larger world outside his inherited traditions.

And:

…sometimes Davis isn’t defensive enough — particularly when it comes to Malamud’s faded status among the Jewish writers and critics who made the reputations of Bellow and Roth. Like an embarrasing old uncle, Malamud is barely referred to these days. On those few occasions when he is publicly admired, tribute usually comes in the form of sentimental commentary from younger, self-consciously Jewish writers, whose parochial picture of Malamud ironically confirms the denigrating comments Roth made a generation ago. Far more frequently, however, you find critics celebrating Bellow and Roth, above all, for their intelligence, and never mentioning Malamud.

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