Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
berstang ’s
Nightmare o f the Dark
(1967) which lingers over the
pun ishm en ts and to r tu res inflicted on a young boy in a concen tra­
tion camp in o rd e r to milk the sado-masochistic possibilities they
offer. T he au tho r dwells on homosexual incidents, flogging and
whippings, much in the same way tha t such incidents are depicted
in cheap novels written to p and e r to the p ru r ie n t taste.
A more recen t novel,
Spicy Lady
(1973) by Jo seph A. Daly,
provides an example o f a d ifferen t, more subtle, tu rn in such
exploitive enterprises.
Spicy Lady
is o ffered up as a fast-moving
satiric novel on modern communications. It attacks commercial
television for its unconscionable manipulation o f hum an beings
in o rd e r to exploit them fo r commercial purposes and uses the
ho rro rs o f a survivor’s concentration camp experiences to h igh ­
light the moral callousness o f the medium. T h e tru e irony ap p a r ­
ently escapes Joseph A. Daly.
T he story o f
Spicy Lady
is a simple one. A woman nam ed Wanda
Fleisher establishes herse lf as a regu lar p e r fo rm e r on TV fo r a
company tha t tu rns ou t spices. She instructs h e r audience in how
to tu rn ou t savory dishes by using the company’s products. Alive,
sexy, and outrageously witty, h e r uninhibited brash, breezy style
captivates weary housewives. T h e sales o f the spices she advertises
soar and she quickly achieves star status as u n d e r h e r tutelage
harried housewives tu rn the cheapest cuts o f meat into gourm et
dishes. Gradually it is revealed to us tha t Wanda developed he r
culinary tricks while she was an inmate in a concentration camp.
In o rd e r to survive she became a cannibal, and taugh t herse lf how
to use spices to tu rn hum an flesh into succulent dishes. Now, o f
course, we can appreciate the wit o f the au tho r in calling his
heroine Wanda Fleisher, even as we unders tand the secret o f her
sexuality and energy, available to all willing to live on a p rop e r
diet.
In charity one may defend Daley by argu ing tha t he tried and
failed; tha t he tried to weave a moral tale about the decay o f values
and conscience in m o d e rn society, fo r which, ind e ed , th e
Holocaust background could be approp ria te , bu t he simply was
not up to the task. This defense, however, only helps underscore
the point. T he Holocaust is increasingly being exploited for the
lurid possibilities it offers, guaran teed to tingle the nerves and
stimulate the slavering seekers o f thrills and chills. H igh-m inded
intentions do not excuse moral insensitivity.
T h e re are o the r negative reactions o f the imaginative m ind to
the Holocaust. It is no t uncommon to come across statements by