Picks and Pans Review: Inside, Outside

updated 04/08/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/08/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Herman Wouk

"I'm trying to show the American Jews I know," says David Goodkind, the narrator of this too-long novel. Wouk apparently has created Goodkind to embody the Jewish experience in this country. The character is a successful lawyer who, at the beginning of the novel, is working in the Nixon White House just as Watergate unravels. In idle moments, Goodkind recounts episodes from his life. His parents were immigrants from Russia. His father worked in a laundry and became part-owner; his mother, the feisty daughter of a noted rabbi, never lets anyone put anything over on her. Goodkind's story—of a bright, much-loved Jewish boy coming of age in the Bronx—has been written many times. David grows up serious and religious, and yet one of his earliest jobs is writing comedy. He goes to law school, has a love affair with a beautiful showgirl who is not Jewish and joins the Air Force in World War II as a navigator. He goes home for his father's funeral, makes a name for himself as a defender of a Jewish writer who has written a sex-full, scatological novel, marries a perfect wife and becomes wealthy as a tax lawyer for big corporations. As legal counsel for the United Jewish Appeal, Goodkind also gets to know a lot of important Israelis, including Golda Meir. The title of this book refers to the split that Jews feel in America: They have both Jewish names and American names, and two lives, one inside and one outside. Wouk, the author of The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War and other successful pop novels, will, with this book, specially please those who enjoyed his Marjorie Morningstar. Inside, Outside is pleasant but it seems terribly old-fashioned and familiar—even repetitious—to those who keep up with popular fiction these days. Near the end, Goodkind says that the book he is writing is going to be a kaddish (prayer for the dead) for his late father. As a tribute, this novel seems more dutiful than inspired. (Little, Brown, $19.95)

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