Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Party in Miami Beach - Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer – 1902 – 1991

C’mon now...is there any way I could bash something written by Singer? The guy won a Nobel Prize in 1978!

I do have to say that this story didn’t do anything for me.

How about that.

Let’s just leave it there.

I suppose that if I was more familiar with the works of Singer...I may have picked up on his style and perhaps I would have enjoyed this selection.

Researching Singer, I discovered that he usually wrote about exactly what was contained in this story. Polish Jews, Yiddish language and culture and morality.

I don’t know, there just wasn’t anything special in this story for me.

Sure, I’m impressed by the man, but not the story. Perhaps Oates included it in the collection knowing that it would draw some eyes. I don’t know if the stories were read blind back then but I am pretty confident that she was able to recognize his writing. There probably weren’t many Yiddish authors in translation who were widely read here in the States back in the late 70’s...or published in Playboy.

The Paris Review does a wonderful job by making his 1968 interview with the journal available online. I couldn’t be happier that the PR makes these interviews available. It really allows me to know the authors beyond their work, and with a case like Singer, it gives me a perspective that I would not have had with out reading the interview. I will include several quotes from the interview below...as I find them special. I may not like the story, but I like the man.

“I say that we too in each generation see such sparks which we ignore just because they don’t fit into our picture of science or knowledge. And I think that it is the writer’s duty and also the pleasure and function, to bring out these sparks.”

“You cannot take life and suddenly turn it into one great delight, one ocean of pleasure. I never believed in it, and whenever people speak about a better world, while I admit that conditions can be made batter and I hope that we can do away with wars, still there will be enough sickness and enough tragedy so that humanity will keep on suffering more or less in the same way it always has. Being a pessimist to me means being a realist.”

Towards the end of the interview, Singer is asked about what seems to be the sudden rise in popularity of Jewish authors. I have noticed this trend with the last BASS and with the mention of several Jewish authors in JCO’s circle. I was starting to wonder if I had started to develop some sort of complex and that I was picking out these authors from some sort of weird filter that my mind constructed.

Singer gives an interesting reason...one that may or may or not be correct but one that puts my mind at ease nonetheless.

Score – 6 out of 10.

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