It came as a shock to fans and critics alike when Philip Roth, at the age of 80, announced he would henceforth cease and desist from the writing of fiction. After all, how could a writer who, for more than 50 years, had devoted his life to producing page after page of novels and stories that have never ceased to astonish — no one could break taboos and raise a ruckus like Roth; few could match his engagement with the Jewish experience in America or his dark wisdom in grappling with prejudice — wake up one morning and unplug the writing function from his computer as well as from his brain?
Jewish fiction is alive and well in America, and holding up a large pike in the tent is Nathan Englander. The Orthodox day school drop-out, born in 1970 on Long Island, has never made his affinity for Jews a secret: "The Ministry of Special Cases," his 2007 best-seller, focused on Jews who disappeared during Argentina's "dirty war." And his first collection of short stories, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" (2000), was riddled with Jewish-themed works.