Harry Golden & the American Audience
Nikita Khrushchev should be given Golden’s two books to read as he travels through America. Golden accomplishes on paper what Norman Rockwell does on canvas; a living, breathing, everyday America, with its glories, and always first, its people. Khrushchev could have no better primer of the American way of life.
-Fort Worth Texas Star-Telegram
IN EARLY October, 1958, the I ladies of the Delphian Club of Forrest City, Arkansas, met for one of their literary afternoons. The “theme” of the program was “Americanism,” which the club members illustrated by the floral arrangements and refreshments, and by the book that had been chosen for discussion-Harry Golden’s Only in America. Since a considerable portion of this book was occupied by Golden’s unabashed stand in favor of integration, it is interesting, to say the least, that it should have been so honored by the ladies of a state which only a year before had responded to the threat of integration by calling out the national guard. And no less interesting is the fact that the recollections, attitudes, and tone of an unregenerate Lower East Side Jew should have been taken by these small-town Southern Protestant women as an exemplary expression of Americanism. But-though striking-the enthusiasm in the Delphian Club for Golden’s liberal wit and Jewish wisdom, was hardly exceptional, and by this time, hardly surprisingly. Published three months before, Only in America-a risky publishing venture at the start-had been the spectacular hit of the summer season. And the rush to the bookstores for this collection of snippets from the Carolina Israelite, Golden’s one-man newspaper, seems to have been matched by the rush of the reviewers into print to praise it. Stamped across the cover of the 1,750,000 copies of the paperback edition sold in the first year (the sales of the trade edition ran to 250,000) was the legend: the “best seller which has taken all America by storm and which all America has taken to its heart”-and for once these time-worn canards appear to have been perfectly true.
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