The Schmooze

Chabon and Alter: Is it Esprit d'escalier or Trepverter?

Robert Alter discussed “tough Jews” with Michael Chabon on March 18 as part of the Berkeley Seminars in Modern Jewish Culture Lecture, but there seemed to be a gap in the Jewishness.

Alter, the Berkeley professor and great critic of Jewish writing, interviewed the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon and asked about the author’s exuberant style, the inspiration for Chabon’s novel, “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” (his counter-historical novel of a Yiddish homeland in Alaska that the Coen brothers are reportedly filming) and other topics that those who have been following Chabon’s career — and that seemed to be just about all of the 200 or so attendees — had probably heard before.

But one expression spoke volumes about the writers of Jewish literature today, and what cultural touchstones they reach for most naturally.

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Chabon and Alter: Is it Esprit d'escalier or Trepverter?

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