IRVING HALPERIN: MEMORIAL MEMORIES
Irving Halperin died in September and I went
to a memorial service two weeks later at Temple Emanuel-El
but I still have unfinished business with Irving. Last year
I asked for readings to prepare for a trip to Israel and he
made suggestions. I went to the library and looked at the
lot, read some, rejected others and added new ones.
It was the short stories that were most helpful
in grasping the mind of the Israelis. The bitter sweet changes
of life on a kibbutz since the thirties are explored in "A
Hollow Stone" by Amos Oz. "Like Salt on Birds' Tails" by Uri
Orlev examines the nihilism of the young marrieds ending with
the suicide of a Israeli Defense Force fighter pilot. "Badenheim
1939" by Aharon Applefeld is a Kafkaesque irony about Jews
who leave their musical performances in an idyllic Austro-German
spa to board a government train for Poland with a dogged hopefulness
that overcomes their apprehension. I wanted to tell Irving
he'd helped and discuss my list.
I had another private experience with Irving
when I learned that he had studied for his Master's in English
in Iowa City from 1951 to 1953. This was the time that I was
a resident in psychiatry and also a graduate assistant in
European Literature and Thought in the English Department.
We didn't meet at the State U. but Irving's favorite mentor
was Victor Harris while mine was Joe Baker, both organizers
of European Literature and Thought. Irving went on to India
and I went to New Orleans. We never got to discuss the polarity/affinity
of these two neolithic gurus. A piece of my jigsaw puzzle
A public moment that I savor was when Irving
asked the class why so many Jews were communists. I think
this was as we studied Kim Chernin's and Vivian Gornick's
work in a course on Family in Memoirs and Fiction. First there
was silence, soon an electric buzz, then snorts, expostulations,
answers and comments. My response was a question, "Why are
the Jews so often successful capitalists?" and the dialogue
continued on into the next class.
Once I met Irving in an organic grocery store on Geary
and he spoke directly without any of the usual pleasantries, "I just
don't know if I can do a good job on Faulkner." I reassured him and
as always, he presented a brilliant course.
I'm not religious and I don't believe in an afterlife
but the idea of a seance with Irving has an appeal. If Hillary can talk
to Eleanor, why not?
See ya, Irv.