Page 151 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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A n g o f f — 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
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portant than being a Jew. Whether you smoke a cigarette is more
important. Whether your fingernails are clean is more important.
Whether you make love to your wife is more important. Whether
the Detroit Tigers win the pennant is more important.” An-
other intellectual who writes for such magazines as
The R epo r ter ,
Esquire,
and the
N ew Yorker
was even more blunt: “I hope my
children will have no need for any religion, Judaism included.
Better they should stay off religion and fried foods.”
Perhaps the most depressing comment of all was made by
Philip Roth, whose
Goodbye , Columbus
was hailed as a “break-
through” by many Jewish and non-Jewish critics: “What passion
remains is neither for the Law nor the God, as for a few festive
holidays and nostalgic ceremonies . . . The result is that we are
bound together, I to my fellow Jews, my fellow Jews to me,
in a relationship that is peculiarly enervating and unviable.”
Still more: “For myself, I cannot find a true and honest place
in the history of believers that begins with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob on the basis of the heroism of these believers, or their
humiliations and anguish.”
The dual tragedy of the Jewish American literary scene during
the past twenty-five years is that the men who harbored these
views wrote novels and stories which, in their eyes, justified
their negativism and hostility toward their people, and that
these men were encouraged and praised by critics who were
similarly afflicted.
R em em ber M e to God,
by Myron Kaufman,
which is ostensibly about Boston Jews but actually has no au-
thentic relationship to them, would have died of its dullness
and irrelevance if the critics on the order of Alfred Kazin hadn’t
singled it out for its “breakthrough” importance. And
Herzog,
by Saul Bellow, would have collapsed of its own repetitious
detail about a superficially Jewish psychopath if it were not
hailed as a “darling of a novel” by Theodore Solotaroff of
Com-
mentary
and his ilk.
Jewish War Novels
The Jewish novels that appeared to erupt all over the United
States with World War II were, in the main, only outwardly
Jewish. Norman Mailer’s
The Naked and the Dead
and Irwin
Shaw’s
The Young L ions
contained Jewish soldiers but their
Jewishness was as accidental as was the Jewishness in two of the
minor Jewish characters in James Jones’
From H ere to E tern ity .
That Mailer and Shaw were Jewish themselves didn’t seem to
give them any greater insight into Dos Pintele Yid than was ob-
servable in the work by the non-Jew Jones. World War II has
not produced, as yet, a single major novel by an American, unless