The son of Jewish immigrants, Schwartz was born in Brooklyn in His father was an exuberant huckster, who made and lost a fortune, and his mother was a deeply erratic paranoid. Their marriage was a catastrophe. Schwartz was a precocious teenager, an ardent and passionate reader who, by the time he was 20, had read all of the modernists and most of the philosophers, too. This shock of recognition has much to do with the way Schwartz wrote about the Jewish immigrant experience in New York.
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They are New York stories, set in the late s and s with many references to past family histories of immigration and the struggle for success in America. The first story, which gives the book its title, the justly famous "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," is my favorite.
All the stories are worth reading and rereading. There is much to appreciate here. I long, long ago bought a copy of this book just for the title alone prompted, too, by accounts of Schwartz being the inspiration behind Bellows Humboldts Gift. I finally pulled it from the shelf because Id recently read LeGuins Lathe of Heaven, and that novel evoked Schwartzs title, which could have served as an epigraph. While Schwartz published only through the end of the 50s, his stories concern events and the spirit of the preceding generation.
This evocative title has always intrigued. The title story encapsulates the anxiety Schwartz and his 2nd and 3rd generation of well-educated Jews experienced after their 1st generation immigrant parents had succeeded in becoming Americans. This was no small feat, and Schwartz is conscious of all that he owes parents who have dreamed of the good life and given him means to further ascend the social ladder. At the same time, there is a burden and anxiety about this legacy, that with the promise of more, there is also the responsibility to act on that promise.
Or so Schwartz perceives it. Schwartz is tender and compassionate, able to place his well-rendered characters in social circumstances that convey an era and are still poignant in their particularity. In this long story each of the members of this clique is given expression, all filled with aspiration, drawn to a particular cynosure whose success they feel is imminent. This collection begins and ends with a Schwartz surrogate in a movie theatre, which he invokes as escape, refuge from reality.
This note of resignation is a steady, underlying thrum throughout, and this collection exudes a sense of abashed failure, of talent gone to waste.
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities
Early life[ edit ] Schwartz was born in in Brooklyn, New York , where he also grew up. His parents, Harry and Rose, both Romanian Jews , separated when Schwartz was nine, and their divorce had a profound effect on him. He had a younger brother, Kenneth. He then did some graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University , where he studied with the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead , but left and returned to New York without receiving a degree.
Coney matrimony is phoney baloney
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