Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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ANGOFF ----JEWISH-AMERICAN FICTION
19
yearning — characters who are genuinely human, of course, but
who also bear all the wonderments and agonies and loveliness and
mellow sorrows that go to make up Jewish tradition. Abraham
Cahan and Hyman and Lester Cohen and Henry Roth and Meyer
Levin and Anzia Yezierska and others have done it in their
respective writings, and one wonders why the Bissels and the
Appels don’t choose to follow in their footsteps instead of the
footsteps of Montague Glass and Earle Stanley Gardner.
The mention of Gardner recalls another bit of sadness. James
Yaffe, who wrote so well in
My Cousin Evelyn
and
What's the Big
Hurry?
about German-American Jews, has lately taken to writing
shabby mystery stories about a Brooklyn-Bronx Jewish “momma
detective,” that are embarrassing in their tawdriness. But they
seem to be successful with the readers of mystery magazines —
and one fervently hopes that Yaffe won’t be taken in by this
shabby success . . . that he will return to writing about the Park
Avenue and Long Island and Westchester Jews whom he knows
so well, and about whom he writes with so much understanding
and sympathy.
Jews with money are more plentiful now in the United States
than they were two and three generations ago. For the creative
writer these Jews are endlessly fascinating, and one wonders when
Jewish writers will begin to put them in memorable novels and
short stories and plays — especially novels and short stories, for
they are the most flexible and supple of the literary art forms.
I haven’t written very much about them myself because, alas,
most of my life I have known only
kabtzonim
or those who, despite
their Buicks and Cadillacs, still have
kabtzonishe
souls. Even so I
sense much sorrow and loveliness and humor in these new
gvirim.
The most offensive thing, in a way, about Herman Wouk’s un-
fortunate
Marjorie Morningstar
is that in this, the first major
attempt to deal fictionally with wealthy Jews, he brought forth
such a cheap and monstrous work that it may frighten off better
writers for a long time to come. Besides, now that so many Amer-
ican readers have been educated to view the Marjories and Noels
in a certain bleary light, it will require a considerable while to
re-educate them — and the better writers, being conscious of this
difficulty, may overly strain themselves in their endeavor to write
more honestly, and the strain may show in their work.
Perhaps this is where I should say a word about my own book,
The Sun at Noon
, which appeared during the past year. I t is the
third volume in a continuous fictional study of Jewish-American
life during the past half century, a work that may eventually run
to eight, nine, or even ten volumes. Volumes Four and Five are
already finished, and I am presently at work on Volume Six. I