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“Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel”

I read this book by Leah Garrett and I liked it a lot. Solid insights on Joseph Heller, Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer, of course, but also the now-forgotten Irwin Shaw (see here and here) and Herman Wouk. Garrett’s discussion of The Caine Mutiny was good: she takes it seriously, enough to point out its flaws, showing respect to it as a work of popular art.

I’d read many of the novels that Garrett wrote about, but when I’d read them I’d not thought much about the Jewish element (except in The Young Lions, where it’s central to the book, no close reading necessary). Garrett’s book gave me insight into the Jewish themes but also helped me reinterpret the novels in their social and political context.

P.S. Garrett is speaking online next week about her new book, X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II.


  1. Slugger says:

    No Leon Uris? He was extremely popular when I was young. I read “Battle Cry” in class by hiding it under the lip of my desk. Now, I’ll grant that he wrote melodramatic potboilers, but I bet he sold more books than Saul Bellow. Saul Bellow wrote “Dangling Man” a book in which nothing happens (I liked “Augie March”. “ Exodus” was almost boring, and Uris’ later works were totally boring, but “Battle Cry” thrilled the sixteen year old me. Perhaps Uris’ actual experiences on Guadalcanal and Tarawa made it to the page in a way that the works that were not so personally real didn’t.
    I grew up in an environment where Jews were a small minority, and I was not upfront about my identity. I found this alienation echoed in “Battle Cry.”

  2. Asher says:

    Arthur Miller was Jewish too and his most famous play was about the war (“All My Sons”) but he was a playwright and not a novelist.

  3. jonathan says:

    Thanks for the recomendation. I’ve wondered many times why Jewish voices have been so able to capture the American mood. In writing, film, music. Science too. So maybe one ‘hint’ is that Jews see how things are occurring and thus can encapsulate that moment. I could connect this to Judaism: it reflects the identification of the individual and the community in the intellectual and emotional registers, and those are the twin poles of Judaism’s version of itself and of creation. As in, the intellectual veneer over the pugnaciously raw emotionalism of Norman Mailer

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