Jewish Writer in America

Jewish Writer in America : Assimilation and the Crisis of Identity

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Product details

  • Hardback | 266 pages
  • 142.24 x 210.82 x 27.94mm | 430.91g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0195014472
  • 9780195014471

Review Text

The subtitle is both obvious and, as it turns out, pretentious since this modest survey, which avoids analysis in these or any other terms, merely offers a micro-index of 20th-century Jewish writers, excluding writers only nominally Jewish (in Guttmann's view) such as Salinger and Arthur Miller. We go from the minor works of Emma Lazarus, the memoir of the assimilationist Mary Antin, and Abraham Cahan's stories of the Eastern European immigrants, to extensive summaries of Bellows, Mailer, Paul Goodman, et al., often with minimal reference to Jewishness or identity crises. What is missing is an enthusiasm for sociology and a sensitivity to the divisions and substratifications of American Jews, without which it is hard to deal effectively with Roth, or Wouk, Friedman, or Podhoretz (relegated to a footnote while Allen Ginsberg gets pages). Nor is there a compensatory literary penetration al work: Guttmann relies on little exegeses of characters' names (Anna Maria Oliovino suggests the fruitfulness of olives and grapes) and embarrassing glosses ("Beefy Ronald Patimkin is a type unrelated to the pale scholar of the shtetl and the exploited needle-trades worker of the ghetto": Elkins has "a seriousness that has sometimes gone unnoticed among the marvelously comic effects."). Occasionally writers are rated on a scale of "belief in peoplehood," but even the casual reader of fiction will come away with few new ideas, though he may be stimulated by the plot summaries to read Michael Gold or Joseph Freeman or "The Old Bunch," and refine his own conceptions of milieux and generations. (Kirkus Reviews)show more