I’m noticing a trend among my coreligionists-who-write: arguing against being “labeled” as Jewish writers — especially when they are simultaneously speaking in Jewish-sponsored lecture/reading series, blogging for the Jewish Book Council, and/or benefiting from awards given specifically for works deemed to have Jewish significance. These writers protest too much as they engage in a variation of that proverbial activity: biting a hand that feeds them.
Thirteen years ago, Nathan Englander’s debut story collection, “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” brought its then twenty-something author his initial fame. Eight years later came the publication of a first novel, “The Ministry of Special Cases.”
The Jewish Journal asked several authors appearing at Sunday's Celebration of Jewish Books to answer a question that, at least for writers, has existential overtones: "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what Jewish book would you want to have with you, and why?"
Nathan Englander's new novel, "The Ministry of Special Cases" (Alfred A. Knopf), begins on a dark night in a dangerous time: "Jews bury themselves the way they live, crowded together, encroaching on one another's space. The headstones were packed tight, the bodies underneath elbow to elbow and head to toe.