Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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There was a second’s hesitation. Then: “God can do Any­
thing.”
“Tell me you believe God can make a child without inter­
course.”
“Mamma, you tell me.”
“God can make a child without intercourse,” his mother
said.
PINSKER/THE EDUCATION OF CHAIM ADAMS
13
ROTH’S TRILOGY
More recently, Roth has turned his attention to
apologia,
to sus­
tained exercises in defense and/or justification. In the trilogy of
novels that revolve around Nathan Zuckerman (
The ghost writer,
Zuckerman, unbound
and
The anatomy lesson
), Roth tests an alle­
giance to the literary Modernism of Henry James, of James
Joyce, of Franz Kafka against the claims of the larger Jewish com­
munity. Should the True-A rtist remain aloof, positioning
himself, as Joyce had insisted, above or beyond his handiwork —
or is the relationship between Art and Life more immediate, in­
extricably tied to consequences? As Nathan’s father puts it in
The
ghost writer:
From a lifetime of experience I happen to know what ordi­
nary people will think when they read something like this
story. And you don’t. You can’t. You have been sheltered all
your life . . . It’s not your fault that you don’t know what
Gentiles think when they read something like this. But I can
tell you. They don’t know about art. Maybe I don’t know
about art myself. But that’s my point. People don’t read art
— they read about
people.
To be sure, Nathan persists, first as the author of unflinching,
uncompromising short stories and then as the “celebrated” au­
thor of the best-selling novel,
Carnovsky.
But Guilt gradually re­
places the easy bravado that Ozzie Freedman brought to “The
conversion of the Jews” and when last seen — in
The anatomy lesson
— poor Zuckerman was blocked as a writer and suffering might­
ily as a man.
Roth, of course, insists that he is
not
Alexander Portnoy,
not
Na­
than Zuckerman, but we read the passionate denials — to say
nothing of his fiction — with the growing sense that Roth doth