Page 160 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

show how successful he has been at shedding his Jewish skin,
Harris Rosenblatt proudly accomplishes this act of canicide and
demonstrates to all but himself his pompous vanity and villainy.
At least Bruce Gold, who like many of his generation is
tempted by assimilation, is painfully aware of his shortcomings.
He knows that he is not worse than his contemporaries, but also
certainly not any better. He is cognizant of his own vanity,
ambition, and cruelty. These traits are his not because he is a Jew
Fremont-Smith — but because like all Jews and all non-
Jews, he is ordinary
— pace
Wieseltier. Gold points out that there
is a
misperception of Jews in America. “They think we’re
brilliant and dynamic and creative, instead of just jumpy, ner­
vous and neurotic. They don’t know” (GG, pp. 239-240). The
problem with Henry Kissinger, he says, is that he, like Rosenblatt,
has come to believe that he is as extraord inary as Nelson
Rockefeller thought he was.
The characters in
Good as Gold
are, on the whole, morally am­
biguous. To be “as good as Gold” is to be neither one-sidedly
good nor one-sidedly evil. The most ambiguous character in the
novel, however, is not Bruce Gold but his father Julius, the one
who most resembles — and in many ways prefigures — Heller’s
King David. Julius Gold does display cruelty to his younger son,
but he is not a uniformly cruel man. He also betrays a pathetic
fear of being shunted aside in his old age, and of losing the power
and control he once had as head of a “European” Jewish-
American family.
“Monarchy and Monotheism in Literature from the Medieval
to the Modern” is the title of a course proposed by Bruce Gold.
But monarchy and its synonyms appear most often in the book in
relation to Julius Gold, who is tenacious in his defense of his sta­
tion and dignity. “‘I don’t eat off broken china,’ he would pro­
claim like an affronted monarch” (GG, p. 34), is the way Bruce
Gold remembers the father of his youth. Gold “could remember
meals far back when his father reigned like the absolute tyrant he
was, pointing the lethal scepter of his finger at whatever he
wanted passed to him, and everyone else would hasten to ferry
everything in that area to him” (GG, p. 34). Moreover, Julius has a
battle cry, like the “Montjoie!” and “Passavant!” of the most an­
cient and noble of Christian families. His “
/” puts an end to
all discussion. “Far back, the peremptory cry of
would in­
stantly create an obedient silence that everybody in the family