Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

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Mr. Howard Fast, Mr. Arthur Miller, Mr. Irwin Shaw, Mr. Nor-
man Mailer. Of these Mr. Miller seems to me the most gifted as
well as the most scrupulous. His delicacy of perception in
would have served him better with just a little more Jewish
knowledge added;
Death of a Salesman
, too, is delicately felt rather
than profoundly thought through. But his talent is evident and
his possibilities of development are great. Mr. Shaw is often
betrayed by a “slickness” of execution which in the milieu of the
New Yorker
passes for elegance, but of his talent and of legitimate
hopes for his development there can be no question either. Mr.
Norman Mailer, author of
The Naked and the Dead
, is a man of
ruder, heavier execution and more sombre temper. What is true
of all three is a very honorable attempt at least to include their
people and that people’s fortunes in their works. Everywhere
among the younger writers the assimilatory mask is being lifted.
What makes this honorable attitude futile is the pretty complete
lack of Jewish knowledge, which none of them seems willing or
able to supply. I t is perhaps at this point that I should mention
the brief, subtle, oddly shadowy dealings with Jewish life of
Mr. Delmore Schwartz (
The World is a Wedding)
, the modernist
sketches of Mr. Paul Goodman, the promising beginnings of
Mr. Saul Bellow.
There are moments when it seems to me as though we have in
the immediate present done best in poetry. I have already men-
tioned Kenneth Fearing. To his name should be added at least
those of Muriel Rukeyser, Delmore Schwartz, Karl Shapiro and
Hyam Plutzig. These poets all belong, of course, to the contem-
porary movement of “difficult” poetry, poetry
as such {an sich)y
which has abandoned direct communication in the older sense.
Within this framework, however, all of these poets are authentically
gifted and all, except Mr. Schwartz, are escaping from the frame-
work of a total despair in the possibility of meaning. Miss Rukeyser
has always been capable of startling clarities of lyric expression;
Mr. Shapiro, despite his defense of the school and
, writes
with increasing communicative force, as he did in that salute to
Israel which he wrote for the birth of the State.
When I think of the battle for Zion I hear
The drop of chains, the starting forth of feet . . .
I look the stranger clear to the blue depths
Of his unclouded eye. I say my name
Aloud for the first time unconsciously . . .
Speak the name of the land,
Speak the name only of the living land.
A profounder and more authentic poet than any of these is