Page 162 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Conover tries to convince Gold, paternalistically, that he ought
not try to assimilate. It is not possible to effect a metamorphosis
without being a Harris Rosenblatt. “I can’t for the life of me see
what business a Jew has in government except to gain social rec­
ognition. There’ve been no good ones have there? I t’s hard
enough for a Protestant, isn’t it, and we have the knack”
(GG,
p.
260). While tha t statement might appear patronizing and
malicious, Conover’s benignity is apparent in a later piece of fa­
therly advice he offers to his would-be son-in-law: “If I were you,
Goldilocks, instead of trying to ape me, I would make it a point
always to present myself as Jewish since you’ll never get by as any­
thing else”
(GG,
p. 398). However bitter and cruelly put, that ad­
vice is congenial to Gold. At the beginning of the tale Gold’sJew­
ishness was mainly culinary. True, he does quote Hillel to
Andrea. Indeed, he even learns that he had once played the role
of the biblical Joseph pampered by his father and detested by his
siblings. “Pop was crazy about you when you were small,” Sid re­
veals to him in a poignant interview. “We were the ones he was
mean to. We were the ones who couldn’t stand you”
(GG,
p. 327).
And just as Joseph rises to the occasion and fulfills the prophecy
latent in his dream, Bruce Gold concludes by acceping, very
conventionally, his responsibility to his family. He even resolves
to write his book on “the Jewish experience in America,”
including in it not only assimilating Jews but authentic and tradi­
tional ones as well. And Heller, whose
Good as Gold
is an impres­
sionistic painting of the Jewish experience in America, will write
God Knows.
VIEWING THE TRADITION
God Knows
is the story of a Jew who has studied his tradition
and seeks to come to terms with it. This becomes clear in an ex­
amination of one of the major themes of this novel — which is
also a major theme of much of Heller’s fiction, and of world liter­
ature — the relationship between fathers and sons.
David, during his lifetime, has had occasion to think at length
and intensely about the relationship between fathers and sons. “I
have had three fathers in my life,” says David, “—Jesse, Saul, and
God. All three have disappointed me”
(GK,
p. 73). Here is the
crux of David’s irreverence for God. He cannot understand, for
example, how God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. He