Page 157 - 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
137
Charles Angoff’s continuing Polonsky saga is now going into
its seventh volume,
M emory of Au tum n .
The preceding six have
been
Journey to the Dawn , In the M orn ing L igh t, T h e Sun a t
Noont Between Day and Dark, The B it te r Spring
and
Summer
Storm.
The series is probably the most comprehensive fictional
study of American Jewry since the turn of the century. I t is
multi-generation in structure and takes in every major aspect
of Jewish life in the United States: Americanization, assimilation,
Zionism, secularism, the various religious denominations, Jews
in industry and the professions, anti-Semitism, and intermar-
riage. Dr. Sol Liptzin calls the saga “a fictional epic of vast
scope and rich insight.”
One of the areas in which Jewish-American fiction has dis-
tinguished itself especially has been that of the short story.
Among the more gifted short story writers are Irwin Shaw, Yuri
Suhl, Meyer Levin, Hortense Calisher, Albert Halper, Delmore
Schwartz, Charles Angoff, Joanne Greenberg, Bernard Malamud,
and Merrill Joan Gerber.
Jewish American Poetry and Drama
The productivity in poetry has been meagre. What Ludwig
Lewisohn said in 1940 holds substantially true today, namely,
that with the exception of the work of Abraham M. Klein,
Jewish-American poetry has been of little consequence. What
the Rev. Dr. David de Sola Pool said about the verses of such
people as Louis Untermeyer, Karl Shapiro, Newman Levy and
Babette Deutsch is equally true, in the main, about most of
the contemporary poets: they rarely “write out of a Jewish heart.”
Too many of the poets apparently sympathize with Karl Shapiro
who said, “I have nothing to offer in the way of beliefs . . . I
try to write freely, one day as a Christian, the next as a Jew.”
Still, there have been worthy poets, among them Alter Abelson,
Alter Brody, Philip M. Raskin, Charles Reznikoff, and Ruth
Finer Mintz. Reznikoff’s
By the Waters of Manhattan
and
Testi-
mony
contain poems of a high order. Mrs. Mintz’s lyricism in
The Darkening Green
has good quality. But one has to go to
A. M. Klein for poetry of real distinction—in his
Ha th N o t a
Jew
and
Poems.
It is not impossible that at the very least
“Pintele Yid” and “Reb Levi Yitshak Talks to God” will join
the treasury of Jewish poetical literature.
Feeble as is the over-all output in poetry, that in drama is prob-
ably even feebler, despite all the commotion that some of the
plays have produced. The current musical, Fiddler on the Roof,
based upon a few paragraphs by Sholom Aleichem, actually has
little relationship to the world of Sholom Aleichem, as virtually