The New York Review of Books published, in two parts, an interview with Nobel Prize laureate, Saul Bellow. A most provocative, evocative piece for anyone but perhaps most especially those of the Jewish faith, born and raised in the United States before and immediately after those chilling World Wars and often until today.
It is written in his authentic voice, and raises so many questions for me, born more than three decades after him, but also the child of an immigrant Eastern European Jewish mother. And this piece, written nearly two decades ago, could and should be written today, and it is perhaps for that reason the Review is publishing it.
My own experiences do not differ widely from Mr. Bellows, with several exceptions. Those exceptions are my nearly perfect assimilation into the fabric of this country and beyond, so much so that my own immigrant Mother called me a "WASP." This handle was given to me because I can and do get the table set, and all the fixings to the table in such a way that I can join rather serve my guests. I did not laugh or scoff at my Mother, but rather preened at the thought that I could not be distinguished from my fellow citizens by religion, or occasionally locale.
So the second largest, but perhaps not only other difference between Saul Bellow and me is my failure to stay identified as Jewish, but rather strove to lessen rather than enlarge my heritage.
In the second part of the interview, Bellows moves into a philosophic tone and departs greatly from the personal and somehow this section was less engaging.
But perhaps reading the two combined convinced me to take a page from Bellow's playbill and not exaggerate, or offer up my background, but rather just embrace it as me.