Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Observant Writer

The Jewish Week's revisiting of Wendy Shalit's NYT essay on the way the Ultra-Orthodox world is portrayed in literature has made me revisit the issue as well.
Shalit's original thesis, as you will recall, is that the popular books about the Ultra-Orthodox world don't capture its charms, and are often written by authors who no longer belong, or who never belonged, to it. She singles out a few books written by ba'alot tshuva which haven't achieved great commercial success, but which, she says, "capture the subtlety and magic of [Ultra-Orthodoxy's] traditions," and which are therefore the real deal.
Here's a point no one (I believe) made at the time: why are the only authors Shalit approves of ba'alot tshuva/did not grow up in the Ultra-Orthodox community? Where are the women and men who were born Ultra-Orthodox, writing the kind of literature Shalit would like to see?
The answer, of course, is that they are either ill-equipped to write anything approaching real 'literature' due to a lack of education, or else encouraged to go in other directions. If Shalit has a complaint about the lack of 'insiders'' -- code word for more positive -- view of the community, perhaps it's because there's not many people to produce them.

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