June 2010
A review of

Witz

by Joshua Cohen

Central question: If the last Jew on Earth spends all his time masturbating, how do we make more Jews?
Obligatory plot summary: All the world’s Jews die except for one (born a grown man, bearded), who is made a martyr and a hero, but only so that New York can milk some cash out of the death of all the Jews; Words invented in the novel: waxedhairy, jumblblbling, breastcrowned, fallenflung, offbronchial, debaptism, windword; Ratio of novel’s pages to author’s age (in years): 28.4 to 1; Representative lines: “Benjamin’s put to bed early, PopPop lockingin SonSon, to sleepsleep in the roomroom of His MomMom; are you cozy, comfortable, suck it up, I’ve known worse. I lived twice what even your parents lived—I’ve lived double lives.”

Witz is, according to its subtitle, “The Story of the Last Jew on Earth.” Appropriately, the novel’s arc follows the lifetime of Benjamin Israelien, who survives first a plague that kills all Jews except firstborn sons, then survives the systematic extinction of the survivors, who have been collected in barracks by the government. And what do the remaining masses do with our singular, symbolic Jew? We celebritize him. We pimp his religion and his haircut. His foreskin is coveted, not to keep the memory of a people alive, but rather for cloning, to propagate the vogue new kosher style. Then, when he does not play ball, we demonize and denounce him, make him a fugitive, a farce.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Blake Butler

Blake Butler is the author of Ever and Scorch Atlas. A novel is forthcoming from Harper Perennial in early 2011. He edits HTMLGIANT.

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