Joe sits down to write in a cafe over coffee about someone who writes about someone writing: Sara was sitting in a restaurant in Brooklyn when she heard two African American women (both around the age of her mother, or so she thought, did not figure) say, “Why does that girl have blonde hair? Negroes are not blonde. Is she trying to be white?” Or so they asked each other in mock muffled tones–or so she said to me that they had asked each other . . . but why would I doubt her, and I am herein doubting just little, but what exactly, I might ask, out do not–not really. Am I thinking that her quoting these women is not accurate–something of a revision? Is it less than authentic–I usually hate the word authentic, nothing less authentic than any attribution of authenticity about anything, anyone, anywhere. What do I know of African American diction–what does she, did she–could she have been making this all up? I don’t know anything of Southern American diction, and I am sure my friend does not either. I have always noted, though, that black people here in New York, when they are American blacks, with families from south of the Masson-Dixon Line–all of them speak something residually southern, don’t they?
Now, she said she thought about what they said, the African American women old enough to wonder out loud what another African American girl was doing with blonde hair. She said that what they said about this other younger African American girl, a girl younger than she was probably by about ten years, maybe one or two more, made her think about something she had noticed for a long time and wondered herself about without actually wondering, and you do know how that happens, right? It was about Jewish women, Ashkenazi women, Eastern European Jewish women here in the Brooklyn she had grown up, women of whom she was one–where did blonde Jewish women come from? She had never really asked this question that was now being thought about here in a restaurant where she had heard women other than she asking about girl who was other than she. She knew she had seen some, seen one, a few blonde Jewish women, how many? She never asked. She never said anything, never thought to say anything, never imagined–nor could she have imagined–that she should say anything, think anything, wonder anything about Jewish women being blonde. It’s not as if there had never been any blonde Ashkenazi women without dying their hair–Jewish women born blonde? She wondered. Of course there would have to be, even if it were a Jewish woman getting pregnant by a Polish man somewhere when, would it matter, this is not about the existence of Jews and Poles in Poland, or Belarus or Ukraine.
Jews were not blonde, she then said to herself at the table, under her breath. Were Jews ever blonde, she might have asked when she was young, a girl, before puberty, she said, as it was possible. She thought she could have equally asked if Arabs were ever blonde. Were they?
She wanted to write something saying something about this, but did not want to write an essay, as an essay would come across as non-fiction, and this was not the authority, or kind of authority she wanted to lend her text. She did not think she had a story in her to write, so decided to write what she had been developing over time and publishing in one blog or another online, a fictional essay . . . and in so doing, she would be writing fiction, side-stepping the generic expectations of non-fiction, while using the form of the essay, which would be dominated by exposition rather than narration, right?
What we have herein following this introductory material, exposition itself, these lines serving an essay function, yes, everything herein is about a trial of an idea or a trial of ideas, to essay is just that, to try. So what here follows is the fictional essay as she had begun to write in the restaurant she was in, or so she said to me and thus I say to you, the readers of this, my blog, where her piece, this text, has been published–but as we should note, she uses elements of storytelling in her essay writing, as any essayist could do in a non-fiction essay, although leaving thus any critique opened to questioning the wisdom of generic categorization?
What is in a genre? A fictional essay by the name short story functions how, in what way different, smelling as would an essay smell if essays could be smelled and not just read. To you the reader, what loss or gain is there in ascribing generic categories to written texts? This does what for the reading? I am not one who is going to eschew all generic/genre analysis and say that it does not matter what you call a text, define a text as, so long as you are willing to defend your position and articulate it in writing–that’s everything for me, dialogue, not monologue. There are fossilized forms, genres, and there are plastic ones, malleable, the way the novel and the essay are . . . and it is interesting to me that both the essay and the novel, as dominant throughout bourgeois civilization and its world hegemony as they have been, arose in the light of historical day, virtually collaterally.
“What is it about Ashkenazi women dying their hair blonde?” Rebecca asked. “I mean, since the Holocaust? What is that?” No she did not look this up. No she did not Google this. No, she did not do anything but look back in thought on how many times she noted that there seemed to be far more blonde Jewish women than there had been when she was a girl growing up in Brooklyn. “All in an attempt to become more Aryan?!” She asked. “What else am I supposed to assume?” she said. Like one time when she asked a friend more than 20 years ago, “Have you noticed that some Synagogues in Brooklyn have resorted to lining the perimeter of their roofs and the top of the gates that enclose them, or cut off access to their side and back, with barbed wire . . . fucking barbed wire!” “What is that about?” She asked, raising her voice slightly. “I do and I don’t want to understand the the nature of formerly oppressed–repressed people . . .” ‘people’ here meaning a People, not just any amalgamation of several anybodies. “I understand that hair color need not have sociological or psychological significance beyond what it could–I can’t even say what I intended to say–it’s just odd, very, very odd that . . . never mind,” she cut off. “I could discuss irony her, but . . .”
“If we wanted to understand better how a People are affected, we could just as well examine the psychologies of persons who have suffered the kinds of repression and oppression and hostility Ashkenazim remind us they have suffered historically–and this is not a rhetorical maneuver. I am not suggesting that Jews have not suffered what it is they have repeated forever that they have suffered for all time . . . I mean, it is for all-time that they have suffered what they say they have suffered, right? It’s just, if any individual suffered what it is they say they have suffered as a people, what would we suspect about him and his psychology . . . and then multiply psychology into mentality, and what do we have?” asked. Marie paused. She did not think about what she had said further.
But to examine further just how suffering influences a People, we need look no further than the politics and politicking and policies of Ashkenazim in Israel, first socially making Sephardim and indigenous Israeli second class citizens in their own country, new and old . . . and how they have managed Gaza and the Palestinians over the last few decades,” she said.”If that is not an example of how people learn from their oppressors . . .” Marie trailed off.
What is it about this Esther Perel trying to make of Judaism a pro-sex, pro-body religion–have you read her shit? Is she deluded about Eastern European Jews? The Orthodox, are you kidding me. I mean, the Puritans also had sex, but don’t give me her shit as if it were some grand revelation. Is she deluded or merely closing her eyes to the ways of the Ancient Hebrews?” Perel is just another dyed Blonde denying her heritage trying to pass for Northern European Aryan like.
“Oh God! It’s too much, isn’t it?” A friend of Joe’s insisted. “They dye their fuckin hair blonde and change their names to sound and look more Anglo . . . wily, aren’t they?” His friend said. “You haven’t noticed that they change their Yiddish names for Anglo names here, or whatever the mainstream is wherever they find themselves in their continuing diaspora . . . but can the Magyar claim central Asia as their homeland . . . I mean, after all this time. What the fuck is that?” His friend Robert asked.
I’m tired of Protestants and Jews trying to make something else out of Catholicism and Catholic cultures and their civilization, he said. “Yes, the Judeans were horrified by the Romans, as any modern Arab Muslim would be,” he said. As I am too very tired of pudgy, pasty faced, American Re-Hebracized Protestant from the Mid-west who come here and gentrify black neighborhoods and then try to heap their White guilt trips on me to alleviate themselves, as if any Non-White Caucasian shared in his Whiteness, Joe’s friend Andrei said.
I love it when Jews try to tell me about Catholics, as if Ashkenazim are so much less uptight than Italians, the French and let’s say, Mexicans. And I am not going to ask if Jews were ever in love with how non Jews have told Jews about jews, or have ascribed the Jewishness of Jews historically, socially, interactively interpersonally, he said.
Everyone’s a solipsist at one time or another, or so even she would agree. “But do these women unconsciously imagine that if Jews looked as they look with their hair dyed blonde that the Nazis would not have come for them? That’s as absurd as Americans believing that Anti-Semitism was essential for the Nazis seizure of Power. It was not. Again, as an argument I have heard before: if there were no Jews in Europe, there would have still been Nazis, Nazism–a Nazis Germany. We make a gross error when we think otherwise. We fail to understand the nature of Power and just what the Nazis achieved and how to combat that. You do know that achievement is neutral; it is neither good nor bad,” Joe ended.
It might have been more interesting for you, as I think it might have been more interesting for me, if she had created a chief protagonist who was a Jewish woman and not one who was not Jewish, yet undefined. It seems to get stuck in a world view both Jewish and Non-Jewish (Anti-Semitic), whereby the world is made up of only two kinds of people, Jew and Gentile, Jew and Non-Jew. That, of course would tell me something about the author of the fictional essay-story, one where she creates a non-Jewish protagonist who is then quoted by an expositor who tries to remains as neutral as possible, as oil reporting some special news item, yes?