This week, we are suspending our usual comment of the week feature (only once!) to give space to Stanley Crouch, who had a provocative (and, yes, flattering) thing to say in the comments section of Allison Hoffman’s profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
This article shows, once again, how far behind American reality and the nuances of its unpredictable complexity domestic fiction remains. Eric Cantor could not be convincingly imagined or the basis of a variation made by Philip Roth or, in film by Woody Allen. Were Saul Bellow still with us, I am almost sure that he would have been thinking about Cantor and what his very existence says about the mysteriousness of Jewish or human probability. As Ralph Ellison was given to observing, “Americans have a stubborn habit of surprising you if you pay close enough attention.” I also agree with this because Marianne Williamson, who is now a homemade version of a faith healer, was a shock to west coast, midwestern, and eastern seaboard Jewish students when I was teaching in California because Marianne was from Texas, a southern belle to the gills, and was always glad to say, “I went to temple, too.” As always, American humanity is the true source of vanguard realization in all of our arts, which are too often dominated by well-meaning or simple-minded clichés.
Is he completely right? What, if any, American fiction has accurately captured “American reality and the nuances of its unpredictable complexity”? And no, you can’t just say The Great Gatsby (although do check out the mock 8-bit online Gatsby game!).
Related: The Gentleman From Virginia [Tablet Magazine]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.