Rather impertinently, perhaps, you could summarise the preoccupations of the Jewish-American novel in one word: ‘shiksas’ (literally, ‘detested things’). It transpired that there was something uniquely riveting about the conflict between the Jewish sensibility and the temptations – the inevitabilities – of materialist America. As one Bellow narrator puts it, ‘At home, inside the house, an archaic rule; outside, the facts of life’. The archaic rule is sombre, blood-bound, guilt-torn, renunciatory, and transcendental; the facts of life are atomised, unreflecting, and unclean.

– Martin Amis, “Saul Bellow, As Opposed to Henry James,” The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump. Essays and Reportage, 1994-2016 (2017)


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