Page 214 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
o f the larger American experience with the authority they have
shown in writing about immigrant Jewish experience?
Time has answered both these prophets of American Jewish
literary doom. American Jewish writing has not disappeared,
though for the most part the subject of the immigrant past has.
And whereas it is quite true that these are not the heady days
of Bellow-Malamud-Roth, and Black literature as well as all eth­
nic and women’s literature is at the center, there is yet a steady
flow of literature written by American Jews on subjects both
Jewish and American — most often in combination. Let me
return to Allen Guttman’s dire prediction. The plain fact is that
a not insignificant part of that “stiff-necked, intractable, irrev­
erent” generation, and the next generation, ultimately did
choose
to be Jewish. And if, as Howe claimed, they no longer had the
Yiddish immigrant world as a subject, they now had a variety
of new Jewish issues and themes, such as the relationship of
the American Jew to that State of Israel; the challenge of the
Holocaust as literary subject; the experience of children of sur­
vivors; the resurgence of spirituality and the return to Judaism;
Blacks and Jews; women and Judaism. The truth is that
Guttman and Howe belong to a generation of American Jews
who were tone deaf to religion and Zionism — and perhaps
even to feminism —, and who could not imagine the various
twists and turns that history would take. There were, of course,
harbingers of these new concerns even when they wrote their
threnodies. Edward Wallant had written about the Holocaust,
Hugh Nissenson had written about Israel, and Jews and Arabs,
Grace Paley had written about women, Malamud had written
about the confrontation of Jews and Blacks, Potok had written
about the Jewishly observant — but perhaps most astounding
is that Howe fails to mention Cynthia Ozick at all, and by this
time she already had written
Trust,
all of the stories collected
in
The Pagan Rabbi
and
Bloodshed.
NEW THEMES
The literature of the current crop of Jewish writers has by
now modulated to these new keys, including some additional
ones such as American Jewish science fiction and detective fic­
tion. And to test even Howe’s last point, E.L. Doctorow has