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70 Philip Roth Studies Spring 2007 Throughout this volume runs the theme expressed best by a quotation from Joshua Sobol: “History is present, and it’s a partner you didn’t choose.” The subject matter of the Holocaust may be overwhelming for the new teacher; on a certain level, it should always be overwhelming for all of us. It is also a subject matter that is part of the human record, and one that we must do our best to try to understand. As the recently departed Simon Wiesenthal pointed out, no law dictates that the next victims of a Holocaust must be Jews; any group is potentially open to the deepest darkness that humanity is capable of producing. This volume, in its multiple perspectives, massive scholarship, and powerful insights, offers ways of educating about a horror that we must not forget and that we have the responsibility to ensure is never repeated. Brian U. Adler Valdosta State University Copyright © 2007 Heldref Publications Yanyu, Zeng. Towards Postmodern Multiculturalism: A New Trend of African American and Jewish American Literature Viewed through Ishmael Reed and Philip Roth. Xiamen, China: Xiamen UP, 2004. 291 pp. Price unavailable. In the global and inclusive age in which we live, there are often remarkable serendipities in which persons of different races and ethnicities collaborate or interconnect fruitfully. One of these fascinating conjunctions that transcends oceans and time is a recent book that compares, for the first time, the writings of Philip Roth and Ishmael Reed, noted Jewish and African American authors respectively. Adding yet more intrigue to the layers of multicultural comparison is the fact that the book1 is written by a Chinese author, Yanyu Zeng. By attempting such cultural gymnastics, Zeng creates a practical treatise, yet one that ultimately falls short of its larger promise. Working under the assumption that Philip Roth and Ishmael Reed are the “most important writers in contemporary Jewish American and African American Literature,” Zeng proposes to explore the missing dialogue between them (8). However, the intercultural dialogue itself is what is missing from the book, making Zeng’s effort serve as more of a loose set of general parallels between the two authors, or a series of papers about each writer, presented in alternating form, surveying general trends of postmodernism in Roth and Reed. Not that there is anything wrong with that approach. Zeng covers a vast amount of territory as can be adduced from the subjects of her four chapters that attempt to cover the titanic issues of race, history, gender, and narrative. Each of the chapters (of what is a self-described dissertation [3]) surveys the views of both Roth and Reed on each particular topic in a separate section then sketchily conflates the two at the conclusion of the chapter. Because of Reviews Philip Roth Studies 71 this survey format, the book does not contain many original insights and consists instead of well-written, thorough examinations of Reed’s and Roth’s take on postmodern trends in several thematic areas. Zeng’s thesis reads, “I intend to say that Ishmael Reed and Philip Roth point out a way for their fellow people facing the multicultural society, i.e., multiculturalism” (3). Or as she restates, “They have been trying to direct a way for their fellow people in facing the postmodern multicultural American society” (31). It would have been interesting to investigate “ways of facing” postmodern culture, and to see what Roth and Reed would say about that subject, but Zeng never follows through explicitly on this practical proposal. Expectant readers are left hanging and must draw their own conclusions. There is, however, an attempt to point out differences between the two writers . In Zeng’s view, Reed revises history according to what he once famously called “neo-Hoodooism,” while Roth conjures historical facts through his alter-ego “Philip Roth” (21). However, pointing out differences in such widely divergent methods is often of negligible import, and Zeng does not explore the connection enough to convince us otherwise. The two methods are never laid side by side for analysis. But Towards Postmodern Multiculturalism does foster occasional insights. One utilitarian, although perhaps oversimplified, rubric Zeng provides lies in her explanation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5278
Print ISSN
1547-3929
Pages
pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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