Shall we read a story? Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Find E.L. Doctorow reading John O’Hara’s Graven Image (1943) at the New Yorker Podcast here:
So many layers, so many interpretations. I may be completely wrong about this but the anti-Semitic aspect that Doctorow sees seems to me to arise from his own Jewish sense of exclusion. You would need to be very ‘pushy’ indeed to want to join a club whose totemic animal was chosen to exclude the ‘chosen’. Another thing that was missed is the matter of loyalty. The hinge of the story is the recognition of the jerk in the blue suit who had been to Browning’s house in his father’s time. That connects to the Pocellian fraudster who commanded automatic loyalty. What would Browning’s father think of him, pork in pocket, if not cap in hand, going to Under mensch Secretary, one of the short assed ‘you fellows’. It is an unconscious reflex that causes Browning to throw the job back in in Joe’s face and win both ways firstly in the using of the under-secretary’s need to show dominance, a small man’s triumph, and secondly in saying just the wrong thing. One can imagine Browning talking to his fellow club members afterwards, saying –
- When it came to the point I just couldn’t go through with it.