Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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— T
h e
e c ent
m er ica n
ram a
with private guilts and accusations amid the dust of their parents,
the old man hovers about savoring the taste of life with the tena-
ciousness of one of Bashevis Singer’s imps. One critic was par•
ticularly apt when he described him as “. . . a seraph who had
always surreptitiously admired devils.”
Influx of Works By and About Jews
While Miller probes deeply and universally, other post World
War II American writers have contributed works of a black
comedic nature in which they dissect the psychological nature of
their own Jewishness. Walter Kerr considers the influx of works
by and about Jews rather natural.
What has happened since World War II is that the Ameri-
can sensibility itself has become in part Jewish as it is anything
else. The literate American mind has come in some measure
to think Jewish, to respond Jewishly. It has been taught to
and it was ready to. After the entertainers and the novelists
came the Jewish critics, politicians, theologians. Critics and
politicians and theologians are by profession molders: they
form ways of seeing. [America] has been moved, willy nilly
and by circumstance into a world environment that called for
an unfamiliar response: she had to learn how to deal effec-
tively, courageously and even humorously with the irrational
pressures that descended like lightning with hostility, frus-
tration and despair. An experienced teacher was available.
Bruce Jay Friedman, author of
A Mother’s Kisses,
has been one of the few writers of this school to take his complaint
to the theatre. His play
was very successfully produced
in New York in 1967. The hero, succinctly described as “a warm,
glandular human being, a sort of thirty-five year old Jewish
Candide,” is on a vacation in France and is faced with the incred-
ible problem of trying to regain the affections of his wife who has
run off with a Negro scuba diver. Had she been spirited away by
almost anyone else the situation might have been somewhat toler-
able. The play is a mad, black comedic thrust at the presumably
secure middle-aged Jewish male. Harold Wonder has money, a
lovely wife, children and, presumably, a house in Scarsdale. But
when calamity strikes outrageously—well, what can one do but
respond with outrage, striking back with one hand while holding
on tightly to the restraints of upbringing with the other.
When first discovered he holds “a large gardener’s scythe but
seems unaware it exists.” While its purpose is not specifically
defined, the scythe would appear to function as a sort of pacifier;
archaic and useless but somehow necessary. “Whenever there’s