Facing Black and Jew: Literature as Public Space in Twentieth-Century America

By Adam Zachary Newton | Go to book overview

5
Black Jewish inflations: face (off) in David
Mamet's Homicide and the O. J. Simpson trial

I know you don't love us We are not like the others We have swum through too many streams people who rest and people who wander Have a totally different face. I know you don't love us But let us come to rest Then we shall have the same face.

Georg Mannheimer, “Lieder Eines Jude”

I've got to keep on moving, blues falling down like hail. and the day keeps worrying me, there's a hellhound on my trail.

Robert Johnson, “Hellhound on my Trail”

The preceding chapters' asymmetries all function as variations on a central theme. In this last full chapter, I exchange literary Blacks and Jews for two other kinds: cinematic ones, and the entities enmeshed in the accidental allegory called blackjewishrelations. As a medium of symbolic exchange rather than a natural state of affairs, perhaps the latter is no more than the literaturizing component of human relations writ large on the plane of cultural identity; or perhaps it is what is meant by cultural identity itself, the transpersonalization and enlargement of the self, back-lit by the postmodern. But given the kathartic pressure commonly brought to bear on such exchange, together with the outsized dimensions it must bear in cinema and “real life”—precisely not the novel—the resulting ghostly coefficient seems all the more apposite at the seam where Life itself conjures Art outside the strictly literary. 1

-142-

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