Fahie, Sarah Dawn
MetadataShow full item record
Lying on his couch, reflecting on his life, Moses E. Herzog “thought awhile of Mithridates, whose system learned to thrive on poison. He cheated his assassins, who made the mistake of using small doses, and was pickled, not destroyed. Tutto fa brodo” (Bellow 4). Saul Bellow’s titular character offers an excellent metaphor for a complicated figure: the schlemiel. Herzog reflects on Mithridate’s inability to die with honor: having fortified himself against poisoning, he botches his suicide. The Italian phrase Bellow uses to describe Herzog’s state of mind is an idiom meaning literally “everything makes broth” suggesting that every little bit helps. In Herzog it is used ironically: every little bit helps self-sabotage; everything that helps is also everything that hurts. A schlemiel’s best efforts will inevitably come to foolishness. handwringers is a collection of short stories which revolve around Jewish identity and the figure of the schlemiel. The critical introduction, “‘Everyday’ Scraps and the Metacomedic Schlemiels of handwringers,” looks at the form of the stories, the genre of metacomedy in relation to the form, and the schlemiel of the collection as a metacomedic character. The stories are short, ranging from 17 to 2020 words. The length of the stories contributes to the theme of mediation, evoking something of a chaotic media experience of clips, soundbites, advertisements, shows, film, and the internet. Moments of epiphany and/or crisis unfold within these short forms. Collectively, these moments suggest a fragmented sense of self, one assembled through bits of cultural information gleaned from various media. Throughout the critical introduction, examples from both my work and the creative and theoretical work of others are used in order to clarify abstract ideas as well as to suggest a matrix of influence. Ultimately, in this collection, Jewishness as understood through pop-culture is manifested in a kind of anxiety around identity, authenticity, religion, and culture.