Page 7 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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I N T R O D U C T I O N
B
y
A . A
l an
S
te in b ach
I
I
r e c a l l r e a d i n g
that Keats once endeavored to persuade Shelley
that “an artist must serve Mammon.” He wanted Shelley to
realize he must be “more of an artist, and load every rift” of his
poetry with ore. Keats was probably thinking of Spenser’s “Cave
of Mammon” in the Fairie Queene within whose rough vault
the ragged breaches hong
Embost with massy gold of glorious gift,
And with rich metall loaded every rift.
A growing coterie of modern writers, among them some of our
ablest novelists and playwrights, have taken Keats literally; they
have become apostles of Mammonism in its crass, materialistic
signification. But they have gone further: they have added Eros to
their pantheon. Indeed, Eros is their catalyst for attaining the
success and riches personified by Mammon. Theirs is a new scrip­
ture whose article of faith is expressed in a single tenet: “Mammon
is god and Eros is his prophet.” They have given a curious twist
to Lowell’s dichotomy of truth and wrong, paraphrasing it:
Decency, normalcy forever on the scaffold; pornography, erotica
forever on the throne.
Prurient material and outright pornography are becoming in­
creasingly blatant. Nudity and sex orgies are simulated on the
stage as values having “redeeming social importance.” Mr. Roth
justifies the use of pornography in Portnoy’s Complaint as a valid
artistic form in the novel. Obscenity should not be considered
repellent, we are told, if the novelist or the playwright employs
it as a vocabulary of artistic expression. Exposing sexual intima­
cies in a novel or on the stage does not erode moral standards.
Not at all! Far from being harmful, they can even be therapeutic
instrumentalities for releasing tensions. Thus speaks Eros!
In the half-page advertisement of Nabakoff’s latest novel Ada
in the New York Times Book Review section and also in the
New York Review, four of the seven excerpted statements from
reviewers speak about the novel’s sex appeal. “Nabakoff’s treat­
ment of sex is these days unique . . . (he is) the most voluptuous,
the most elegantly sexy writer going”; “an erotic masterpiece”;
“Mr. N. has found his way back to Eden: and by way of the
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