Jews With­out Money

Michael Gold
  • Review
By – April 20, 2012

East Euro­pean Jews — Jews with­out mon­ey — who con­front­ed the ter­rors of emi­grat­ing to a crowd­ed city and cop­ing with ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry New York City dom­i­nate this coarse, ten­der bio­graph­i­cal nov­el by Michael Gold. Greet­ing the read­er with sex for sale, reek­ing dirt, in rude lan­guage, Gold’s pow­er­ful voice pro­pelled his book through six edi­tions in the four months after it was pub­lished in 1930. Cur­rent­ly there are five imprints and an e‑book. Many have pow­er­ful, skill­ful wood­cuts by Howard Simon.

Focus­ing on fam­i­ly and neigh­bors in a Low­er East Side ten­e­ment, stewed in pover­ty, he described school­ing, ill­ness­es, super­sti­tion, work­place, faith, love, and death, in a style reflect­ing both maudlin jour­nal­ism and Hem­ing­way-like sto­icism. On the death of his 12-year old sis­ter: “[neigh­bors] offered my moth­er the most dis­mal com­fort. Why is there so much gloomy wis­dom at the hearts of the poor?” Gold’s words wrench; life with­out money.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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