“Until now, my identity as a writer,” Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote “Everything Is Illuminated,” said last week, “has never overlapped with my identity as an American — in the past eight years, my writing has often felt like an antidote or correction to my Americanism. But finally having a writer-president — and I don’t mean a published author, but someone who knows the full value of the carefully chosen word — I suddenly feel, for the first time, not only like a writer who happens to be American, but an American writer.”
When a friend sent that quote to me, I thought I was going to hurl. I didn’t realize by American was such a bad thing, that following in the tradition of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth and Michael Chabon was such a handicap.
Foer’s comment reeked of the same elitism as when the permanent secretary of the Nobel Prize committee fallaciously explained the lack of American Nobel laureates in literature by saying: “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining.”
Foer will be at the Celebration of Jewish Books at American Jewish University today. I’ll be stopping by—more on that later—but avoiding his talk.