Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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48
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
wedding. It was nothing like Quat’s raunchy fantasy, yet lively
enough, in all tru th” (p. 334). The coda appended to this last
statement is significant, admitting a grain of tru th in Quat’s
descriptions. What is wrong with Quat’s stories is not so much that
they do not contain the truth, but that, to the trained ear, they do
not “ring true.”
The importance of Goodkind’s protestations of truthfulness is
that he himself recognizes that, inevitably, he often falls short of
the mark. At the beginning of the novel, for example, he relates
as absolutely true an episode from his mother’s history. After the
telling, he steps back to issue a significant corrective statement:
“Now, there is a specimen of the unreliability of memory, or
memoirs, and probably of all written history. I am honestly trying
to tell the truth here. Yet the fact is — when I stop to think —
[otherwise]” (p. 16). If he is not truthful, if his text is not reliable,
it is not his fault, but that of memory itself. “History is a cheat and
memoirs verge on f raud ” (p. 286), he concludes. Is he not
admitting here that the naked truth is impossible to relate and
that fiction is not only necessary but that it is unavoidable? What is
needed, Goodkind will admit, is a combination of “tru th and art.”
NOVELISTIC ELEMENTS
There is a great deal of both truth and art in this novel. One
might find in this text many allusions to Herman Wouk’s per­
sonal life, and just as many to his literary
oeuvre
.5 More signifi­
cantly, there is an enormous quantity of references to the West­
ern literary tradition, enough to constitute a
leitmotiv
for the
novel.
Herman Wouk is steeped in the Western literary tradition and
evokes it throughout his work and life. In a “Journal Entry” writ­
5 The allusions to Wouk’s personal life in this work are legion. Like his main
protagonist, Wouk grew up in the Bronx, went to Townsend Harris High
School, attended Columbia University where he came under the influence o f
an English professor, wrote two varsity shows and a column in the
Columbia
Spectator,
was a gag “digger’Vwriter for radio comedians, served in the Armed
Forces during World War II, and — going further than his fictional character
— married the converted Gentile with whom he fell in love. The literary prec­
edents o f
Inside, Outside
in Wouk’s
oeuvre
extend beyond his celebrated novel
o f the Jewish American experience,
Marjorie Momingstar
(1955). They include
his earlier, lesser well-known effort in that area,
City Boy
(1948) and a book o f
religious musings dedicated to his own zaideh,
This Is My God
(1959).