Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J E W I S H - A M E R I C A N I M A G I N A T I V E
W R I T I N G S I N T H E L AS T T W E N T Y -
F I V E Y E A R S
B
y
C
h a r l e s
A
ng o f f
T
h e
l a t e
Dr. Ludwig Lewisohn and I engaged in a running
subject of conversation when he would meet during the last
fifteen years of his life. He had one persistent complaint and one
expression of joy.
“How are you?” I would say.
“Very well. This year my latest book was reviewed on page 29
of the
New York T im es Book R ev iew .
My previous book didn’t
do any better than page 44. I ’m improving.”
The last time I saw him, a few months before his death in
1955, in the lobby of the Main Building of the Washington
Square campus of New York University, in the company of a
lofty university administrator, he shouted to me across the heads
of several score of students, “I ’ve made page 14 now!”
Were Dr. Lewisohn alive today he would, no doubt, be de-
lighted with the attention enjoyed by books dealing with Jewish
life in the United States and in the rest of the world, not only
in the pages of the
T im es Book R ev iew
but in many other major
media. For the past ten years there has been, figuratively speak-
ing, a Jewish invasion of the publishing world, both book and
magazine, of Broadway, of television and radio, and of the con-
cert halls. The Jews are “in” now. It was not always thus. Dr.
Lewisohn had ample ground for complaint. His was the tragedy
to be one of the most gifted writers about Jewish life at a time
when being such a writer was a peculiarity, and hence reviews of
his products were relegated to the back pages of the critical
organs, side by side with reviews of volumes concerned with stamp
collecting and silkworm cultivation.
The upsurge of interest in Jewish themes began, roughly, with
the Second World War, and the point worth noting at once is
that the books which first enjoyed the commercial benefit of the
upsurge were of inferior quality:
G en tleman’s Agreemen t,
by