Bintel Blog

Obama Digs Roth, But McCain Prefers Wouk

By Daniel Treiman

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A few weeks ago, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg — who has lately established himself as a key contender for the title of Mr. Jewish Journalist — grilled Barack Obama about Israel and other topics of Jewish interest. Now, he covers some of the same ground with John McCain.

Since Obama, in his interview, volunteered that he is a fan of the writers Philip Roth, Leon Uris and David Grossman, Goldberg grills McCain on his Jewish literary tastes. And while the two presidential hopefuls may have very different views on the potential utility of talking to Iran (“you don’t sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism,” McCain told Goldberg), at least they can agree when it comes to Leon Uris:

JG: A final question: Senator Obama talked about how his life was influenced by Jewish writers, Philip Roth, Leon Uris. How about you?

JM: There’s Elie Wiesel, and Victor Frankl. I think about Frankl all the time. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is one of the most profound things I’ve ever read in my life. And maybe on a little lighter note, “War and Remembrance” and “Winds of War” are my two absolute favorite books. I can tell you that one of my life’s ambitions is to meet Herman Wouk. “War and Remembrance” for me, it’s the whole thing.

Then there’s Joe Lieberman, who lives a life of his religion, and who does it in the most humble way.

JG: Not a big Philip Roth fan?

JM: No, I’m not. Leon Uris I enjoyed. Victor Frankl, that’s important. I read it before my captivity. It made me feel a lot less sorry for myself, my friend. A fundamental difference between my experience and the Holocaust was that the Vietnamese didn’t want us to die. They viewed us as a very valuable asset at the bargaining table. It was the opposite in the Holocaust, because they wanted to exterminate you. Sometimes when I felt sorry for myself, which was very frequently, I thought, “This is nothing compared to what Victor Frankl experienced.”

Read the full interview here.

Hat tip: Jennifer Rubin over at Commentary’s blog Contentions

UPDATE: Jonathan Mark of The New York Jewish Week wants more specifics from Obama:

Obama didn’t specify whether his sensibility was better shaped by “Portnoy’s Complaint” or “The Plot Against America,” nor does he say whether he preferred Uris’ “Exodus” or “Mila 18,” differing books and sensibilities that might shift a vote, or two.



Comments
Brad R Tue. Jun 3, 2008

Please. "Sometimes when I felt sorry for myself, which was very frequently, I thought, 'This is nothing compared to what Victor Frankl experienced.'" There's an old Stephen Wright joke about this kind of mindset. "I was unhappy because I didn't have any shoes," he says. "Then I met somebody who didn't have any feet." "So I asked him, 'Have you got any shoes you're not using?'" Or consider Beaufort. The German guy says, "I didn't want to be here, but now I'm glad I am." While the Arab guy says, "My mistake was in wanting to be here." But for a nominally Jewish blog over at Commentary to cater to the view that talking about one's emotions is a weakness akin to coddling anti-Semites? The Jewish community has always had its weirdos. Take Jesus.

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