Reading “My Holocaust” (Tova Reich’s satirical send-up of the Holocaust industry) during my short vacation this summer in northern California was at the bottom of my list. But when I saw Cynthia Ozick taking Gary Rosenblatt to task over his closed minded reaction to the book I upped the priority level. Somehow, in between two mile hikes up Mt. Shasta, driving through bizarre old-growth Redwood forests, and foraging for Kosher food in local supermarkets, I managed to get through most of the book and the long plane ride home allowed me to finish.
I like satire and was not offended by the usage of satire to deal with such a sensitive topic. I actually appreciated the issue raised: the victim-commemoration industry. But I did not like this book. Satire does not have to be laugh out loud funny. “Satire – the use of humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices…” (definition handily provided by my iMac’s Dashboard Dictionary) – and this book definitely fits that description. However, the characters in this book are so overblown and stereotypical that once you get the point many of the scenes and much of the dialogue are, as David Margolick’s review in the NY Times says, “long and excruciatingly unfunny”.
It’s true that Tova Reich’s writing is crisp and professional but with all due respect to Ozick’s claim that this book is “a ferocious work of serious satiric genius” I found that reading the reactions to this book (the Jerome Chanes review has apparently been removed from the Jewish Week archive) was actually more entertaining than the book itself. All the important satiric points could have been made in a book half this size. Maybe that’s why The Forward accused the author of writing the book to settle old personal scores. I did appreciate some of the inside barbs aimed at Hatzalah and Carlebachian “holybrother-speak” but overall my interest decreased exponentially during the final 2/3’s of the book.
What is prompting me to post this today is how the book seems to have anticipated the current international crisis touched off by ADL’s statement recognizing the Ottoman massacre of Armenians during World War I as “tantamount to genocide.” This threatens to turn ugly because of a pending resolution in Congress that would officially declare the massacre of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as “genocide”.
Of course I agree with Mobius’ post of May 2nd 2007 that the organized Jewish community’s should recognize the Armenian genocide.
What is really interesting to me is the response of certain Orthodox Rabbi’s of the past generation to the idea that the Holocaust be raised above all other horrors. They were against it for a variety of reasons and some even refused to use the word Holocaust referring to the horrors of that time as “Churban Europe”. They felt that by removing the events from the context of Jewish History we would in fact be taking the Jewish component out of those events. Looks like they were right!