Page 143 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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BENTON / THE WORLD OF CHARLES ANGOFF
133
me in my determination to write fiction about Jews. Whereupon
I wrote, almost literally, at white heat, other stories based upon
members of my family at large. I now had fifteen stories. I added
three more unpublished ones, and I sold the book to a new
publisher, Thomas Yoseloff, who on reading the collection, said,
‘As you know, books of short stories don’t sell too well, bu t if
I ’m going to lose money I want to lose i t on your book.' Even­
tually he became the publisher of all my fiction.”
POSITIVE JEWISHNESS
One of the outstanding characteristics of Angoff’s books is his
positive approach to Jewish life. There is here an exuberance,
almost a
jo ie de vivre,
an unconquerable determination to over­
come all difficulties and survive courageously. This has the au­
thentic ring of the age-old triumphan t Jewish spirit. Authentic
i t is, for i t springs from Angoff’s own background. I find this a
sustaining philosophy. Too many writers today are concerned
with doom—man’s inability to cope with his life. Angoff is free
of obsessions, neuroses, suicide attempts, guilt complexes, re­
pressions—in short, like Walt Whitman, he sings a joyous paean
to life.
“Mid-Century,” the tenth volume in the Polonsky Saga, pub­
lished in 1974, is a perfect example of Angoff’s scope and skill.
A b rillian t novel, i t encompasses personal conflicts and devel­
opments that are set against the absorbing world background—
United States relations with the Soviet Union, with China, with
Korea. They are all treated knowledgeably and intelligently, as
is also the Israel-Arab situation. And the alarming McCarthy
years are dealt with, as the nation is gripped by fear.
T he story opens with the charming memories of the early
Boston years of the Polonsky family, and continues with rich
Jewish associations. “Mid-Century” teems with characters. Among
the major ones are a group of men who meet fifteen years after
graduating from Harvard. Malcolm Dowd, ne Morris Denzer,
has changed his religion with his name. Lacking virtually all
knowledge of Judaism, living in spiritual confusion, he escapes
into Unitarianism (at least for a w h ile ) . He marries Ruth, a
girl with no convictions of her own, who had been an obedient
member of the Party. She reveals this to Malcolm only after
their marriage, and is then just as easily persuaded not to con­
tinue attendance at Party meetings. Ultimately she is expelled