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November 08, 1974 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-11-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

54 Friday, Nov, 8, '1974

, Saul Bellow Critique Reviewed

By ALLEN A. WARSEN

Saul Bellow, whose first
book "Dangling Man" ap-
peared in 1944, has since
written such great novels as
"Herzog" and "Mr. Sam ml-
er's Planet."
Small wonder that numer-
ous critical studies of his
fiction have been published,
some full-length works. Sarah
Blacher Cohen's "Saul Bel-
loW's Enigmatic Laughter"
(University of Illinois Press)
is such a book.
It should be noted that Miss
Cohen's study is not a com-
posite critique of Bellow's
works: it evaluates each
novel individually. This re-
view, however, will assess
the humorous aspects of Bel-
low's novels and of their
protagonists.
Joseph, "Dangling Man's"
main hero has a daily routine
of reading newspapers for
three hours in the morning,
"Hurstwood fashion, frequent
feedings," and spending the
afternoon "listening to the
housewives' favorite soap
operas."
Even before induction, Jo-
seph regards himself "a
moral casualty of the war"
and "a human grenade whose
pin has been withdrawn."
Suffering from an inferi-
ority complex, Joseph broods
that everybody has a low
estimate of him. He imagines
that his mother-in-law inten-
tionally drops chicken
feathers "in his orange juice
to show her contempt for his
inactivity," and the maid
Marie regards him "as a
nonentity" as she "does not
hesitate to smoke in front of
him."
He even fancies "The world
comes after you .— Shunts
you back and forth, abridges
your rights, cuts off your
future, is clumsy or crafty,
oppressive, treacherous
murderous, black, whorish,
venal."
Asa Loventhal, the pro-
tagonist of Bellow's second
novel, "The Victim" is just
as emotionally insecure as
Joseph. He, too, fancies the
world to be inimical, anti-
Semitic and against him.
thinks
Like Joseph

"that his brother's Catholic
mother-in-law despises him
just because he is Jewish"
and regards him with "spite
and exultation as though he
were the devil."
His sick mind is further
aggravated by "his victim-
izer, Kirby Allbec, the dis-
sipated wretch who has given
free reigns to all animal de-
sires," and who hammers
into Loventhal that a Jewish
conspiracy is rapidly taking
over this country as evi-
denced by the many kosher
dishes int:the restaurants, the
Jewish jokes, comedians, etc.
Tommy Wilhelm, the pro-
tagonist of "Seize the Day,"
is typed as a schlemiel, de-
fined by Irving Howe as one
who "lands on his back and
bruises his nose." Tommy's
morning routine differs but
slightly from that of Joseph.
He, too, rises early, shaves,
is in the lobby of the hotel
at eight o'clock, buys the
morning paper, and sips
Coca Cola.
-His life is a bundle of
troubles, including his mar-
riage. About it Tommy
muses, "The Emancipation
Proclamation was only for
colored people. A husband
like me is a slave, with an
iron collar."
A totally different type is
the protagonist of "The Ad-
ventures of Augie March;"
Augie March of illegitimate
birth, who "refers to himself
as the by-blow of a traveling
man."
However, the pathetic crip-
ple William Einhorn and not
a traveling man was Augie's
mentor for quite a long time.
Angie was so attached to him
that he disregarded his de-
diciencies; and about Ein-
horn's sloppy bathroom hab-
its Augie quipped, "I under-
stand that British aristocrats
are still legally entitled to
. . . if they should care on
the hind wheels of car-
riages."
Augie even carried Ein-
horn on his back up a stair-
case leading to a brothel "in
complicated reversal_ of the
mythical prostitute whom
legend placed on the, back of
love-stricken Aristotle." (Al-

,

len Guttman' in "Jewish
Writers in America".)
Henderson, the protagonist
of "Henderson the Rain
King" and the inheritor of
$3,000,000 and a country
house, is characterized as a
"luftmensch, a man of the
air, born aloft by his flights
and high-flown idealism."
Henderson's actions a n d
behavior attest to the cor-
rectness of this characteriza-
tion. Thus, on his estate he
builds "a pig kingdom, with
pig houses on the lawn and
in the flower garden." To
the shirt of his old maid's
dead body he pins on a note
"do not disturb."
In Africa, Henderson fell
in love with a female statue,
and had a sexual affair with
her. The -affair is described
in great detail.
Henderson blamed his be-
havior on the abnormality of
the time: "Of course, in an
age of madness, to be un-
touched by madness is a
form of madness. But the
pursuit of sanity can be a
form of madness too!"
Miss Cohen and other
critics regard Moses Herzog
of Napoleon Street, Montreal,
a schlemiel. No doubt, their
view is correct. Who; but a
schlemiel would write letters
to presidents, editors, literati,
etc., and keep them in his
desk drawer?
Who, but a schlemiel would
believe that he is "the man
on whom the world depends
for certain intellectual work,
to change history, to influ-
ence the development of civil-
ization?" And who but a
schlemiel would consider
writing the final and defini-
tive book on Romanticism?
Yet, Moses Herzog is an
expert at expressing thoughts
perceptibly. This is what he
thinks of money: "With me
money is not a medium. I
am money's medium. It
passes through me taxes,
insurance, mortgage, child
support, rent, legal fees."
Herzog, moreover, is adept
at paraphrazing proverbs and
maxims. Thomas R. Mar-
shall, Woodrow Wilson's vice
president, saying, "What this
country needs is a good 5
cent cigar," Herzog re-
phrased to "What this coun-
try needs is a good 5 cent
synthesis." (Meaning sense
and order). His own domicile
he nicknamed "-H erzog's
Folly," reminiscent- of "Sew-
ard's Folly." (Alaska).
This is Herzog's new inter-
pretation. of Martin Buber's
philosophy of "I-It:" "I am
sure you know the views of
Buber. It is wrong to turn a
man (a subject) into a thing
(an object). By means of
spiritual dialogue, the I-It
relationship becomes an I-
Thou relationship.
"God comes and goes in
man's soul. And men come
and go in each other's souls.
Sometimes they come and go
in each other's bed, too. You
have a dialogue with a man.
You have an affair with his
wife."
We reviewed Miss Cohen's
critique of S a u 1 Bellow's
novels, except "Mr. Samml-
er's Planet." We could not
detect anything laughable
about .it. True, some critics
seem to enjoy relating the
scenes of Arthur Sammler's
encounters with a black thief
and left-wing university stu:
dents, and ascribe to them



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Rabbk-Weinstein, War Critic

SAUL BELLOW

almost mystical significance.
We, however, found these
scenes revolting and nause-
ating.
Miss Cohen's "Saul Bel-
low's Enigmatic Laughter"
is skillfully constructed, an-
alytical and thorough. We
recommend it for a better
appreciation of Saul Bellow's
fiction.

Rabbi Jacob J. Weinstein,
Reform Jewish leader and
Vietnam war critic, died Sun-
day in Chicago at age 72.
Rabbi Weinstein was the
spiritual leader of the oldest
Jewish congregation in Illi-
nois since 1939, K.A.M: —
Isaiah Israel Congregation.
He was a east national
chairman of the National
Committee for Labor Israel,
and past president of the
Central Conference of Amer-
ican Rabbis, Chicago Board
of Rabbis and Hyde Park
(Chicago) Council of Church-
es and Synagogues.
He served during World
War II on War Labor Board
panels, and was appointed- to
government advisory posi-
tions in labor and commerce
by Presidents Kennedy and
Johnson.
After leaving several of
those positions in the late
1960s, he became an out-
spoken critic of war in Viet-
nam.

Well, Tomb Found

A 2,000-yearzold Roman
well house and a 4,000-year-
old tomb have been un-
earthed in Israel near the
Lebanese border.
The discoveries by the He-
brew- Union College-Institute
of Religion, cooperating with
Harvard University and Is-
rael's antiquities department,
have provided a number of
Roman vessels and ancient
pottery, a bronze bracelet
and dagger. —
The archeologists were
working at the 50-acre Tel
Dan. The tomb included the
bones of three adults, a child
and sheep. More than 100
volunteer diggers from all
over the world have also un-
earthed several walls and
floors dating to the 11th Cen-
tury BCE.

RABBI WEINSTEIN

ClibrUM

MINO1.-11

The biggest lesson of • all to
be learned about contempo-
rary civilization is that noth-
ing anyone is doing today
makes any sense unless it is
connected to the making of
a genuine peace.—Norman
Cousins.

ADL Loses Two
Longtime Staffers

NEW YORK—Milton Gold-
stein and Seymour H. Kap-,
lan, longtime staff members
of the Anti - Defamation
League of Bnai Brith, died
during the past month.
Mr. Goldstein, who was 56
and served as New York
rector of the ADL Appeal,
had
died Oct. 27. Mr. K
Due's
been director of the
Pacific Northwest regione•
office. He died Oct. 17 at age
61.
In a statement by Benja-
min R. Epstein, ADL nation,;.:
director, Mr. Goldstein and
Mr. Kaplan were praised ar
"dedicated leaders who will
be grievously missed, no+
only within ADL, but through
out the Jewish community."
Mr. Goldstein had been
with the ADL Appeal since its
founding 11 years ago.
Mr. Katplan joined ADL in
1947, working in its New Eng-
land office. Before being ap-
pointed director of the Pacif-
ic Northwest regional office,
he had been a community
consultant in the .league'
Eastern regional office, as-
sistant director of the Ohio-
Kentucky office and direc
tor of the Plains States of-
fice.

Freedom is an indivisible
word. If we want to enjoy it,
and fight for it we must be
prepared to extend it to e -,--
eryone.—Wendell L. Willkie

11111.11- MIN Mir Mil 1.1. NM MN -AM limo =MO MO MIN IIIMIn•Er..

To: The Jewish News

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17515 W. 9 Mile Rd.
Suite 865

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Southfield, Mich. 48075

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Harry Frankel, 78, I
on Weizmann Board I

NEW YORK (JTA)—Harry
Frankel, a longtime governor
of the Weizmann Institute of
Science and a vice president
of the American COmmittee
for_ the Weizmann Institute, of
Science, died Monday in Is-
rael at age 78.
He had arrived in Israel
Nov. 1 to participate in the
celebration of the 100th anni-
versary of Dr. Chaim Weiz-
mann, first president of Is-
rael.
A life-long Zionist, Mr.
Frankel, an economist, had
been active throughout his
life in the Zionist movement,
including the Jewish Natiobal
Fund, the Israel Bond Organ-
ization and the American
Jewish League for Israel.
A graduate of the Wharton
School of the University of
Pennsylvania, he had lived a
large part of his life in New
York. In recent years he had
lived in Miami Beach, where
he was active in community
affairs, including the found-
ing of the Mount Sinai Medi-
cal Center of Greater Miami.

■- .111=

He had also served on the
Jewish Welfare Board of
Chicago and the board of the
Union of American Hebrew
Congregations.

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