More recently, literary critic Adam Kirsch identified Uris’s writerly flaw as his disproportionate focus on Jewish toughness, which “becomes something monomaniacal and amoral—an obsession with proving that Jews can and will use violence.” Yet for better or worse, it is precisely this quality in Uris’s work that has fundamentally influenced American Jewish identity. “Suddenly for us there was this new Jewish way of thinking,” filmmaker Harvey Weinstein once reflected on reading Uris as a boy. “Instead of growing up to be a professor, a lawyer or a doctor, you could grow up to be a soldier, you know, for your people. You can be tough. You can be John Wayne, too.” When Uris published Exodus—his 1959 blockbuster about the founding of the State of Israel, which sold over seven million copies in the US—the state’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion remarked archly: “As a literary work it isn’t much. But as a piece of propaganda, it’s the best thing ever written about Israel.” In 2008, Barack Obama told Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg that Uris was one of the Jewish writers “who helped shape my sensibility”—namedropping Uris being “a kind of code Jews readily understand,” thought Goldberg.
more from Emma Garman at Bookforum here.