Puerto Ricans and Sentimentality
I suppose if one were to total up the comments of Stanley Plastrik in his review of my book, Island in the City, [DISSENT, Spring 1959], the scales would be slightly more weighted on the “favorable” than the “unfavorable” side. A victory for me by close decision, if not a knockout. But still the whole thing depresses me, and not because of its “favorable” or “unfavorable” aspects. It depresses me because it exhibits exactly the kind of “approach to the problem” on the part of right-thinking, well-meaning men that the book, in its highest purpose, was designed to destroy. Mr. Plastrik begins by saying that I have written a “fine human document,” and I suppose that’s an inevitable label for a book on such a subject, even though no man in his right mind would want to read a “human document.” He then quickly says that “It is a little on the sentimental side … but never mind … Wakefield can easily be forgiven a tendency to overplay his hand; the reader’s common sense will redress the balance.” God help us, I am sure that Plastrik is right. The reader who might begin to feel some emotion, some guilt, some disturbance at his lack of connection or understanding of these people [the Puerto Ricans in New York City], some relationship to them as human beings, need have no fear that he will be m...
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