Sunday, October 11, 1981
Features, Arts & Leisure, p. H18
Fast's Life is a Saga Too
By Rebecca Sinkler
The audience that came out to hear him speak one cold, rainy night
last week was more interested in Howard Fast's legacy than Howard Fast's The
Legacy. The latter is a novel - the latest installment of Fast's saga about the Lavette family; the former is the memory of the royal nose-thumbing that Fast once gave the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) during the McCarthy era. Fast had come to the Jewish Y at Broad and Pine
Streets to read stories and talk about his long, happy career as one of America's best-read writers.
It was, as they say, a "mature" audience. Many bore copies of The American, Citizen Tom Paine and Spartacus, copies that, from the look of the books and their owners, were bought when those novels were first published, in the '40s and '50s.
They also brought with them a sense of history. One man had heard
Fast debate Arthur Schlesinger at the Yale student union in 1949, on the subject of whether civil liberties existed in the United States. (Fast argued the negative.) And many of the audience remembered Fast's appearance before HUAC.
He had, he explained, been ordered to divulge the names of contributors to a hospital for wounded Republican soldiers during the Spanish Civil War. He refused. He was then asked whether he was an agent of a power outside the United States. "Being a ( brash ) kid," he said, "I said yes. Then they got really excited. When they asked who the 'power' was, I told them - God. They sent me to jail."
But not all of Fast's fans remember the bad old days. As we were
leaving the Y, two very young women huddled under one umbrella, enthusing. "I love his books," said one of them. "But I didn't know he'd been so important. I missed one thing, though. Did he say he went to 'Yale' or 'jail'?" "I think both," said her friend, and they scurried out into the downpour.