For every two Jews, said David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, three opinions exist, and maybe when we’re talking about literary works, the number of viewpoints would be five or six.
Jewcy is out with The 50 Most Essential Works of Jewish Fiction of the Last 100 years, as compiled by the fearless Jason Diamond (“I’m editor-in-chief of this hot dog stand”), pictured, who leads with Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, half-Jewish Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (Roth and this one are favorites of mine, but might Diamond be baiting the pruder of the cultural conservatives?), Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (hey, beyond the philosophy in the book, Salinger was at least part Jewish by background, and, like Kafka and Proust, gets mentioned in Scandals, in some ways a Northern Virginia Jewish novel).
Needless to say, rabbinical law dictates that every serious Jewish reader must have an alternative list. Certain Jewcy fans have weighed in with titles from their own, along with observations that the Jewcy list is heavy with works that originally appeared in English and light on those by Jewish women (probably more of a fault of the publishing world than of Diamond). I myself am curious why Diamond skipped The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
But look, in the grand scheme of things, I’m nitpicking. Jason Diamond’s list is a discussion-starter, just as Marc Tracy has noted on the Tablet site (while also observing that the list "places a premium on how essential a work was to literature and culture at large rather than specifically to Jewish culture"). Diamond has performed a useful service in helping to keep Jewish lit on readers’ minds.
Related: Other reaction to the Jewcy list and Henry Adams and the Education of David Rothman.