To the Editor:
I cannot recall, in the years I have been reading your magazine, word from a reader about the short stories you publish. In my own case, I have long wanted to say something about their questionable quality.
Granted COMMENTARY is not a literary quarterly, but rather a monthly journal of opinion, yet COMMENTARY’S editors feel that literature is proper in its pages, else why a story every month? But why, almost invariably, a second-rate story, in an otherwise first-rate publication? The answer lies, I suspect, in some editorial haze as to precisely what purpose literature is intended to serve in a magazine with a “Jewish slant.” . . .
[It may be] that COMMENTARY’S purpose is to explore through works of the imagination the impact of Jewishness (a vague concept) on the modern world and vice versa. If this be the case, good. But here, I think, COMMENTARY has failed, because of the mistaken assumption that to achieve this end, one issue after another must turn up a story with Jewish heroes, Jewish plots, and Jewish themes. I doubt that a kind of kashrut in literature best serves the truth that the Jewish situation is, after all, a reflection of the general human condition. Perhaps the finest story ever written is Joyce’s “The Dead.” Nowhere is modern man’s fatal in-sensitivity more beautifully rendered. I doubt that its Irish cast would have made it any less meaningful for Jews, if COMMENTARY had been around to publish it.
M. M. Liberman
New York City