Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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44
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
about the literature to be written in what she has called the “New
Yiddish”:
The liturgical literature produced by New Yiddish may
include a religious consciousness, but it will not generally be
religious in any explicit sense: it will without question wal­
low in the human reality: it will be touched by the covenant.
The human reality will ring through its novels and poems,
though for a long time it will not be ripe enough for poetry:
its first achievement will be mainly novels.2
That there is a religious consciousness in
Inside, Outside
is evident
from even a superficial reading of the novel. Not only does this
narrative “touch on” the liturgical; liturgy is one of its central the­
matic components.
Israel David Goodkind, the narrator, is a tax lawyer who has
also successfully defended a “novelist of the Jewish experience in
America”3in an obscenity case. He is, at the time the novel begins,
on leave from his lucrative law practice to serve as a special assist­
ant to President Richard M. Nixon in the waning days of the lat-
ter’s ill-fated administration. Although it is now the moment of
Vice President Spiro Agnew’s disgrace and of the notorious
Watergate scandal, Goodkind, in the basement office he occupies
in the White House, has time on his hands. He has the time to
indulge in two of his passions: to study Talmud and to write a
book of reminiscences — in counterpoint to the writings of his
obscenity client — of his own “Jewish experience in America.”
GOODKIND’S PURPOSE
Early in his narrative, however, Goodkind writes a rather curi­
ous disclaimer. Whatever it is he is writing, he is not writing “liter­
2 Cynthia Ozick. “America, Toward Yavneh.”
Judaism
19 (1970): 280.
Reprinted as “Toward a New Yiddish,” in Cynthia Ozick.
Art
&?
Ardor.
(New
York: Knopf, 1983), pp. 154-177.
3 For an idea o f the pervasiveness o f this theme in recent scholarly literature, see
TheJewish Experience in America: A Historical Bibliography.
(Santa Barbara: ABC-
Clio, 1983). This book includes 827 article abstracts selected from more than
2,000 journals in 42 languages, published in nearly 90 countries during the
years 1973-1979. The relative paucity o f articles on the fictional representa­
tion o f the Jewish experience in America suggests a fertile area for literary
scholars to investigate.