Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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h a r l e s
ngo f f
NE of my relatives is a little
at me for not listening to
him as he believes he deserves to be listened to. He claims
to have my best interests at heart, and he is sure that if I wrote
more about “plain people, not just Jews,” I could make “a fortune”
and “ be independent.” He can’t see why I devote nearly all my
creative energies to the portrayal of Jewish men and women. He
argues and argues with me: “ I ’m not saying you shouldn’t write
about Jews. But so much! All right, write a little about Jews, a
story here, a story there, but so many stories, so many novels!
How much longer will this go on, and do you ever think of the
financial angle? Money isn’t everything, but it helps, doesn’t it?”
I imagine several other relatives feel the same way. And many of
my Christian friends give me one of those “ tolerant” looks
whenever they realize that I intend to keep on writing about
Jews. They can’t understand why I am “wasting” my talents on
so “specialized” a subject as Jews.
I know that most other American Jews who write fiction about
their fellow Jews have encountered the same attitudes on the
parts of their relatives and their Christian friends. Are we all
, then? I know one such writer — one of the most gifted
among us, author of a superb novel about Middle Western Jewish
life that I believe will be read fifty years from today — who is
so skilled a fictioneer that, if he had wanted to, he could have
made “ a fortune” by writing the same sort of things that Herman
Wouk and Ben Hecht and Richard Bissell have written. He rails
against the rich Jews who won’t buy Jewish books, and the poor
Jews who won’t buy Jewish books, and the young Jewish boys
and girls who pride themselves upon their knowledge of the latest
bit of gibberish from the pen of William Faulkner, but who look
upon all Jewish-American literature as fit to be read only by their
alte bobbes
, their fathers, or other such “backward” folk. And yet
this same highly accomplished author continues to write fine
stories about Jewish American life — and he manages to eke out a
living in a manner I would rather not reveal. And there are many
other Jewish-American writers who are as skilled fictioneers and
who do exactly what he does — continue to write about Jews.
We continue to write, we get discouraged for all sorts of reasons,