Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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20
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
human faculty . . . the imagination always has the lust to
tear down meaning, to smash interpretation, to wear out
the rational, to mock the surprise of redemption, to replace
the fluid force of suspense with an image of stasis; to trans­
fix and stun rather than to urge; to spill out, with so much
quicksilver wonder, idol after idol.4
The education of Henry Adams
represented that moment when the
stability, the privilege, the Power of being an Adams confronted
the chaos and disorientation of modernity. By contrast, the “edu­
cation” of our various Chaim Adamses
began
in everything that,
for better or worse, the American twentieth century had to offer.
Not all our American-Jewish — or Jewish-American — writers
would agree with Abraham Cahan or Henry Roth, with Saul Bel­
low or Cynthia Ozick, but they are likely to agree that whatever
we now mean by the “education” of a Jewish writer, it must con­
sider more than . . who had the most castrating mother, who
the most benighted father.” Which is to say, Alexander Portnoy
no longer grabs the last word as the discussion continues, and
writers like Johanna Kaplan, Norma Rosen and A rthur Cohen
add their eloquence to the record of opinion already in.
4 Cynthia Ozick,
Art & Ardor
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), p. 247.