“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So, blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
On the eve of the 2008 election, Ben Greenman reintroduced A.L. Levine—a traveling salesman turned politician who wins the 1988 Democratic nomination and just might become the country’s first Jewish president in Michael Halberstam’s 1978 novel, The Wanting of Levine. “There’s no point in reading The Wanting of Levine as a shadow history of Barack Obama’s candidacy,” Greenman wrote. “But there’s also no point in detaching it entirely, not when an author has gone to all the trouble of speculating on the national reaction were a major party to nominate a minority candidate.”
Three years later, it is certainly worth a look back at Levine, a character whose Jewishness—defined culturally by Halberstam, like his status as Northerner and businessman—proves central to his hypothetical responsibilities if elected, if not overtly to his campaign. “Can he be a credit to his people?” Greenman prodded. “Can he be a credit to all people and by doing so erase the sense that his people are somehow separate?” Your move, Levine.
Read Baruch Obama, by Ben Greenman
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