Abstract

In this article I explore Allegra Goodman’s 2010 novel The Cookbook Collector, which has received no critical attention. In part the novel is extremely timely in that it signals our contemporary concern with materiality, in which digitalization seems to portend the erasure of print culture and at the same time cause a reactive and romantic embrace of tangible physical texts. At another level, the novel also attempts to re-address the position and role of Judaism during the dotcom boom and bust era of 1999–2002. I argue that while compared to Goodman’s earlier works this novel appears to situate Judaism peripherally, it in fact endorses what I term a strong Jewish “sensibility” because of its focus on texts (letters and cookbooks in particular, Torah as a more implicit backdrop). I examine the presentation of texts as archives (as sites of memory and also as anticipatory absences), texts as both utterances and material objects, the relationship between texts and terrain (the natural landscape), and texts and temporality, noting the way that Judaism seems to offer, in the novel, a reconciliation of memory (physical text versus uttered text), and identity (collective versus individualistic).

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-5077
Print ISSN
0271-9274
Pages
pp. 177-204
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-14
Open Access
No
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