Page 161 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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would be in horror of breaking, including Gold’s mother” (GG, p.
Julius Gold may be a difficult old man, but he exhibits endear­
ing characteristics. He is no foolish Lear ready to abdicate his do­
main before his death. He is a proud man and he is also a fearful
little boy. His eulogy of his older son Sid, who dies of a heart at­
tack near the end of the novel, consists of a passionate burst of
pathos: “My son S id .. . . He was like a father to m e . . . . Always he
let me be what I wanted”
pp. 476-477). That fathers can be­
come sons is an inversion that is not foreign to the fiction of Jo ­
seph Heller. Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Bob
Slocum of
Something Happened
responds “a little boy.” The same
sensibility is developed even further in
God Knows.
Good as Gold,
Bruce Gold, like King David in
God Knows,
many fathers. In addition to Julius, Gold realizes that, “so much
older in years, Sid was like a second father” (GG, p. 276). He also
fantasizes that, perhaps like Stendhal’s Julien Sorel, he is not re­
ally the son ofJulius Gold but a foundling prince, the son of a real
monarch; in American terms, the son of a
One cannot deny
that there is Jewish self-hatred here but it is a self-hatred cor­
rected by reality, the reality stated in one of the epigraphs to the
novel: “If you ever forget you’re a Jew, a gentile will remind you.”
The gentile in this case is Pugh Biddle Conover, whose func­
tion in the novel is not to play the anti-Semite WASP but rather
the role of surrogate father who smashes Gold’s illusions — if not
Harris Rosenblatt’s — about the possibility of assimilation.
Conover’s credentials as surrogate father are oblique but they are
credible. He is the father of Andrea Conover, th
for whom
Gold would leave his Jewish wife and therefore a father of sorts
to Gold as well. And Conover is a father to Gold in another way,
too, even more indirectly. Back in an undeterm ined past,
Conover was in love with a beautiful Southern Jewish belle, a girl
by the name of Gussie Goldsmith of Charleston, who just hap­
pens to be Gold’s present step-mother. But for a quirk of fate
Gold might have been the son of an American patrician. In
addition, philosophically, Conover and Julius share some politi­
cal principles. One of the strongest is that neither takes “kindly to
the notion of Jews in public office” (GG, p. 416).