“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
At the New York Public Library 26 years ago this month, Frederick Busch received the Jewish Book Council award for best fiction for his Invisible Mending. (This past May, that prize was awarded to David Grossman for his novel To the End of the Land; Philip Roth’s Nemesis was among the finalists). Though the novel was Busch’s ninth, the 43-year-old writer sweated nervously throughout the ceremony, later writing that he worried he’d be denounced as an insufficiently Jewish imposter.
Invisible Mending was Busch’s most intimate exploration of his own Judaism, in which he examined what he viewed as the modern religious obsession with death and candidly considered the legacy of the Holocaust for American Jewry. According to Andrea Crawford, who praised it in Nextbook.org in 2008, Roger W. Straus, Jr., refused to publish the novel, then titled The Outlaw Jew, on the grounds that it was “bad for the Jews,” and the novelist Norma Rosen labeled the main character an “inauthentic Jew” in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review. Busch himself compared the novel’s publication to appearing nude in public, a vulnerable yet provocative act at once deeply personal and shockingly outspoken.
Yet ultimately, Crawford argues, Invisible Mending succeeded. “That novel’s power—its irreverence, tension, humor, and inexorable confrontation with the personal and the historical—moved critics and readers, including the judges for the Jewish Book Council, precisely because it touched upon important questions about Jewish identity, not least for Busch himself,” Crawford writes. Busch later wrote of the award ceremony, “I am afraid that I assumed a pious expression, a kind of nauseous self-renunciation, in an effort to clear any hint of victory from my face—although, I have to confess, I wanted to crow and flap my arms. There were the tensions that for me are this novel’s emblems.”
Read Touchy Subject, by Andrea Crawford
Plus, Clinton criticizes flotilla, Netanyahu Facebook scandal, and more in the news
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.