Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

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AMERICAN JEWISH FICTION BOOKS
1949-1950
B y H
a r o l d
U . R
i b a l o w
T
HE books listed here are those works of fiction which were
published in the United States after the publication of last
year’s
Jewish Book Annual.
Not all of the novels commented on
in these pages are “Jewish” novels; some contain stereotyped Jews;
others project Jewish issues while dealing with other matters in
greater detail. A full dozen, however, are completely Jewish in
content and in approach. They are, of course, of uneven quality.
John Hersey’s
The Wall
is a major book, quite more ambitious in
depth and in scope than most Jewish, or any other novels, issued
during the period under analysis. Yet the Jewish novels, on their
own, are. not entirely more significant to the literary critic, the
sociologist and the general reader than are the other novels which
contain a Jew here and a Jew there. The Jew accidentally met
in the pages of an exciting novel like Merle Miller’s
The Sure Thing
impinges upon the mind of a reader with more impact than one
imagines. The books about Zionism, about Jewish family life,
about biblical Jews, which are read largely by Jews are, in a sense,
less important than the books by Robert Wilder and Nelson Algren
and Harold Robbins which contain Jews who make an impression
on the reader.
Many of these novels are far from great, or even passable, lit-
erature. Some of them are excellent; others are good. A few of
the books listed here have attained best-sellerdom. Most will
be forgotten within a year, if not less. But anyone who wants to
understand the importance and influence of the Jew in fiction,
would do well to study these books. They are a reflection of our
time.
A
l g r e n
, N
e l s o n
.
The man with the golden arm. New York, Doubleday, 1949.
343 p.
Considered by the American book publishing industry as the best novel of
1949,
The Man with the Golden Arm
is concerned with the underbelly of life
in Chicago’s slums. I t is filled with material about drug addicts, loose women,
pe t ty thieves, yet it is written with a finely-controlled sympathy toward the
victims of the environment. One of the major characters, Sparrow, is a Jew
whose real name is Solly Saltskin and who is called “Hebe” by many of his
friends. Algren is one of the rising Jewish novelists in America although he
seldom writes on Jewish themes.
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