I write about a Jewish detective. So you can understand why I would’ve been eager to get my hands on a new book called Jewish Noir, which I saw advertised in The Mysterious Bookshop’s weekly newsletter. Now I’m thinking, "Shmuck-o! Why didn’t you do some basic research before you bought this pile o’ dreck?"
The first story was about a Jewish guy who gets the living shit beat out of him by southern bigots. And all I could think was, "Southerners, huh?"
I plowed through to the next story. This one was set in Brooklyn and had meticulous descriptions of how the slumlord business functions there. Then the least unlikeable character gets murdered because the slumlord wants his apartment.
So I’m thinking, first, that these aren’t really noir stories because there are no investigations, no mystery, no suspense, no real noir atmosphere. It’s more like the kind of academic stuff they publish in the slick doctor’s office magazines–alienated, full of ironic detachment. Lots of sentences, but no characters or stories worth mentioning.
And second, I’m also noticing that the plots, if you can call them that, depend on urban stereotypes of evil rednecks and evil businessmen.
That’s as far as I got on my first session. It was all I could take.
Next evening, I finally got smart and looked at the PM Press website. It reads: "Members of PM have founded enduring book fairs…" You find out later these are anarchist book fairs. "… spearheaded victorious tenant organizing campaigns, and worked closely with bookstores, academic conferences, and even rock bands to deliver political and challenging ideas to all walks of life." The founder’s picture shows him wearing a Howard Zinn t-shirt.
Still, I thought, I’d give it one more chance. Story #3 was a detailed account of a literature professor whose life falls apart when his college puts an administrator in charge of improving the efficiency of classroom teaching. Now this kind of thing is boring and aggravating when you encounter it real life, but excruciating to read about. Readers are supposed to worry because the college might lose its government funding without all of this new administrative BS. The professor, who happens to be Jewish, can’t take it and commits suicide.
No one stops to ask, "Nu, why do we need this government funding? Hillsdale does fine without it."
But that wouldn’t count as one of the "many ‘teachable moments’ about the history of prejudice, the contradictions of ethnic identity, and assimilation into American society and culture," which are Jewish Noir‘s agenda.
Give it a pass. Authentic Jewish noir will have titles like The Maltese Shmatte, The Big Shvitz, The Long Mazel Tov,Dress Her in Gabardine, and Blood Salami. Read those instead.
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