The Novels

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Williamsburg Trilogy consists of three separate novels, Summer in Williamsburg, Homage to Blenholt, and Low Company. Each has a separate plot and group of characters. All are set for the most part in and around the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The first two involve mainly characters who live on Ripple Street in Williamsburg. The third is set primarily in Neptune Beach, a seaside resort based, critics say, on either Brighton Beach or Coney Island. Summer in Williamsburg consists of a series of vignettes focussing on different characters whose lives weave together, often simply by virtue of their living in the same area. Although Philip Hayman, the book’s central character, has no contact with Sam Linck, Linck’s tempestuous relationship with his wife and mother and adulterous relationship with Marge figure prominently. Still, Philip and Linck live in the same building, where Sam’s mother is landlady.

The novel traces Philip’s growing awareness of Williamsburg as part of the lives of the people who live there. The book begins with the suicide of one of Philip’s neighbors and includes the suicide of the man’s wife and her murder of their children; the attempted suicide of Philip’s friend, Cohen, a dreamer and bungler; and Cohen’s death in a fire in the tenement in which they live. It also traces the rise of Philip’s Uncle Papravel, of whom Philip’s father disapproves and for whom Philip’s brother Harry works. Papravel’s thugs intimidate Morand, owner of the Silver Eagle Bus Line, to get him to shut his Williamsburg office. Papravel works for Rubin, president of the Empire Bus Line, who wants a monopoly on the lucrative summer business between Williamsburg and the Catskill Mountains. Papravel puts Morand out of business and becomes president of the Silver Eagle Line, with Rubin as his vice president.

Homage to Blenholt traces Max Balkan’s growth from jobless dreamer immersed in...

(The entire section is 812 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Fiedler, Leslie A. To the Gentiles. New York: Stein and Day, 1972. A brief, largely negative treatment of Fuchs in the context of Jewish American literature. Fiedler, though, praises Homage to Blenholt.

Guttmann, Allen. The Jewish Writer in America: Assimilation and the Crisis of Identity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971. Briefly examines the trilogy in the context of other Jewish American works that treat the generational conflict as the children of immigrants become more and more Americanized.

Klein, Marcus. Foreigners: The Making of American Literature, 1900-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. Gives sensitive, perceptive readings of all works in the trilogy. Places them in the context of the contributions of “foreigners” to building a distinctively American literature.

Miller, Gabriel. Daniel Fuchs. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A book-length introduction to Fuchs’s life and writing. Contains careful readings of each book in the trilogy.

Sherman, Bernard. The Invention of the Jew: Jewish-American Education Novels (1916-1964). New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1969. Treats surreal aspects of Summer in Williamsburg.