Menu JTA Search

The Human Touch

Download PDF for this date

PERSONS who read this department-there must be some-and perused with the attention it deserved the Thursday installment must have been struck by a reference in the first third of the second column to Shylock’s Speech in the “Merchant of Venice,” the “Hath not a Jew eyes?” peroration, as “one of the noblest anti-Semitic speeches ever made.” There must have been some rubbing of eyes around town Thursday morning, and, among the more intelligent of the eye-rubbers, there must have penetrated the realization that the phrase as printed was a proof error, which it was. For what I had written was that that speech was “one of the boblest anti anti-Semitic speeches ever made.” My dear readers must have realized, I hope, that I wouldn’t be implying, firstly, that Shylock had made an anti-Semitic speech and, secondly, that an anti-Semitic speech, no matter by whom made, could be designated as noble. Now that that expanation is made I fell much better, but this makes me understand vividly how much explanation a misplaced or omitted comma may cause somethings. The omission of one little four-letter word caused all this long paragraph.


From a person of great perspicacity and brilliance, and a ntiable author into the bargain, I have reveived a letter telling me about myself, in terms so flattering that the ears upon receiving it was because I have forgotten how. In quoting from it, I make only two concessions to modesty; I quote a very small part of it-it is a very long letter-and I do not tell the name of the writer. After writing that yours truly “is one of the least comprehended personalities I know.” the annalist continues:

“This seems party your own fault (if such a term as ‘fault’ can be applied to instinctively set up mechanisms which defend sensiblity). You know of course what an hilariously funny clown you can be. I don’t think that affords you every adequate emotional liberatation. It is always bizarrely (as I view it), a combiration of exhibition’sm of a rather vinning kink, and downright masochism (though perhaps I shall seem so wrong you will want to shoot me for saying so). As I conjecture, maybe far afield from accuracy, there is a not bloody but painfull warring in you of the egoism which seem a painful accompainment to art felling, and an inhibiting faintly painful modesty. And still more strangely, the modesty is responsible for the exhibitionism. . . .

“I think you are really ‘good’-that is to say, honestly, byt temperament not duty, benevolent and generous and that you are very sensitive to envioroment and the emotional responses or absence of responses or absence of resoponse in others. But somehow all this is as if too much for the ego onm which some doubt of itself (not entirely genouine but still disturbing) was imposed at some period in your life. You sense so many things at once and before they are articulated entirely for you, by yourself, the mood engendered is turned into horseply-clever horseplay, for you ar fulll of real wit. And it is as if you were defying youself as well as the rest of the world to realize anything turther about Harry Salpeter.” I shall quote just a little more.

“You are what one might cynically describe as ‘hopelessly expansive. . . . There’s the background in my eyes for that ‘mercurial’ quality. A kind of hide and seek with yourself which you give oveer at moments, but never for very long. And probably never will. And yet in these odd senconds, in passing, as it were, you have very likely ‘faced” yourself more fundamentaily than most of those who might be inclined to suppose that you had never ‘faced’ yourself at all.”

My quoting from this letter at all-and you can see that someone else must have written it, for it isn’t in my manner-is a concession not to vanity but to the demands of my numberous admirers that I continue writing about myself. What do you question that phrase, “numerous admirers?” The fact that most of them are inarticulate doesn’t alter in the least the fact of the matter. I have been stopped on the street by persons who cannot write such good letters as the one from which I’ve quoted-after all, how many persons walking the streets are no table authors?-and who have asked: “Harry, why don’t you write more about yourself?” and although that is an ivitation which most would find it easy to comply with, a man who writes pleces in the paper ought to be able to find other things to write about, even if he must think hard to find subjects.


The other day he burst in on us waving a bottle of Chinati and we knew that something was up. Something was. The Leterary Guild had chosen his next book for April, and when the Literary Guild, or the Book of the Month Club, picks a young author’s book, and that young author has been having a rough time of it, not to mention a row of debts as long as your arm-when that happens, I say, it means that our young author is out of the woods. On April 1 therefore Cowar-Mccann will publish, and the Literary Guild will distribute, “Long Remember” by Mackinlay Kantor, a young American half-Jew who wrote the first, or one of the very first chicago gangster novels, “Diversey.” “Long Remember” has nothing Jewish and nothing Scoth about it. It is a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, in itself and in its effects on the inhabitants of the sleepy Pennsylvania village which had history made in it. A year ago, when the drama and and the human interest involved in the battle first began obsessing young Kantor, he made plain the complete strategy of the battle with a tie, ripped off his collar, and a scarf, and I learned more about the Battle of Getysburg from his simple explanation than I had from a dozen books on the Civil War which I had read up to that time.

Kantor, you see, comes rightly by his interest. His maternal grandfolks were of the pioneer tradition. One fought in the Civil War and another, if not the same one, took part in the California Gold Rush without bringing back anything but a heap of memories with which to entertain his grandson. In his vedry appearance young Kantor suggests rather the Iowa farm lad than the boy raised in an Eastern metropolis. You will be hearing more about him, here and elsewhere before and around the month of April.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund