The Literary Mafia Jews, Publishing, and Postwar American Literature Josh Lambert

Publication date:
09 Aug 2022
Yale University Press
280 pages: 235 x 156mm
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An investigation into the transformation of publishing in the United States from a field in which Jews were systematically excluded to one in which they became ubiquitous

In the 1960s and 1970s, complaints about a “Jewish literary mafia” were everywhere. Although a conspiracy of Jews colluding to control publishing in the United States never actually existed, such accusations reflected a genuine transformation from an industry notorious for excluding Jews to one in which they are arguably the most influential figures.
Josh Lambert examines the dynamics between Jewish editors and Jewish writers; how Jewish women exposed the misogyny they faced from publishers; and how children of literary parents have struggled with and benefited from their inheritances. Drawing on interviews and tens of thousands of pages of letters and manuscripts, The Literary Mafia offers striking new discoveries about celebrated figures such as Lionel Trilling and Gordon Lish, and neglected fiction by writers like Ivan Gold, Ann Birstein, and Trudy Gertler.
In the end, we learn how the success of one minority group has lessons for all who would like to see American literature become more equitable.

Josh Lambert is Sophia Moses Robison Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English, and director of the Jewish Studies Program, at Wellesley College. He is the author of Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture.

“The Literary Mafia is a thorough, unflaggingly intelligent, and original study of Jewish presence in American literary institutions during the twentieth century and after. A pleasure to read.”—Evan Brier, author of A Novel Marketplace