Jews In the Paper-Backs
To the Editor:
Meyer Levin (“The East Side Gangsters of the Paper-Backs,” October 1953) seems to be overly agitated about the defamatory nature of certain books which are now getting extremely wide circulation through the tremendous sales volume of the paper-backs. Of course, no one can be particularly happy when the family skeleton is dragged out for public display. . . . But persons of all nationalities (including the Scandinavian) appear in the popular thrillers of crime and violence and we shouldn’t be unduly upset over our share of miscreants among the galaxy of disreputable characters. We don’t need to fear that the sensible reader will identify the whole Jewish community with the shady gentry of the “Jewish” underworld-novels; and the pathological anti-Semites will damn us even if every existing Jew is a paragon of respectability. . . .
The sale of these reprehensible books, among Jewish readers at least, could be considerably lessened, however, if scandalized Jewish public opinion and the press would just ignore them, instead of raising a great outcry of denunciations which is so much added publicity. . . .
I wonder whether the fact that we are so eagerly intent on disproving the negative rather than accentuating the positive proves that our Jewishness is really not a conscious but a selfconscious one.
J. S. Oestreicher
New York City