Page 222 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
in a vast unexplored subject area. Th is is too bad, for in spite
of the general decline of interest in fiction (even among adults),
fiction is still one of the best media for conveying information,
mood and inspiration.
An occasional song book (Eisenstein, Coopersmith), two or
three poetry books (Bialik, Orleans), and a book on the Chagall
windows do not add up to a very impressive collection of Fine
Arts. There is a mass of source material upon which to draw;
music appreciation, synagogue art and ancient mosaics are only
a few of the topics waiting to be developed.
A very great lack in our literature is revealed when we seek
information about Jews in lands other than America or Israel.
We have some books pertaining to the escape experiences of
children in World War II, but many o f these lack depth and
relativity—they seem to take place in a vacuum, unrelated to the
Jewish ordeal.
Much conscientious effort by all denominations and by Jewish
publishers has been expended in attempts to produce good his-
tory books; thus we have several attractive histories of the text-
book variety. However, few top level Jewish historians, other
than those who are also archaeologists, have given us good history
books per se.
A comparatively large number of biographies are published
each year. Few writers, however, use their material to the great-
est advantage. They overlook the opportunity for providing his-
torical background and perspective. They very often denude their
people of personal characteristics forgetting that idiosyncrasies
add depth and meaning to a character. They tend to write about
well-known personalities, ignoring the neglected ones. T h e Jew-
ish Publication Society of America should be commended for its
contribution to the biographical list made through its Covenant
Series. Like most series, the Covenant books have varied in qual-
ity, but they have included many previously little known per-
sonalities among their subjects, especially Americans.
Over the years the Bible has been a constant challenge to
writers of books for children. Parents clamor for Bible stories for
children of all ages; teachers need Bible stories for religious school
classes; and writers, including Christian writers for whom the
Old Testament is a sacred book, have felt the pull of the turbu-
lent, elemental ideas that abound in the Bible. They have at-
tempted to supply the demand with varying degrees of success.
Fortunately, the old-fashioned commixture o f legend, talking-
down and talking-around method seems to be on its way out.
Modern authors have been successful in rearranging and modify-
ing the standard translations, retaining much of the text in the