Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Friday, May 31, 2013

Longing for Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Cloister gate" (detail), courtesy
of sxc.hu and Alfred Borchar of Lindlar, Germany
At times one (this one, anyway) aches to bring back a certain departed writer and see what he would do with some absolutely delicious material. In this case, I wish that Isaac Bashevis Singer could be here in plaid suit and mismatched tie to give us a wondrous story inspired by Ari Mandel, the ex-Chassidic man and activist who earned an education and served in the U. S. Army, who posted an intangible for sale on eBay--his place in olam habaah.

What might Singer do with the complexities and absurdities of our day, and how might he introduce temptation and impulse and a sharp-tailed little demon into the whim of a moment, planting a strange seed into the head of Ari Mandel? What musings on the sense of humor of God and Satan might Singer have been led to--what might he have said about a contemporary's atheism? How might the character Mandel live after selling his soul's home, and how might he die, his rightful room in heaven sold away? Where might the soul go? Would an imp pop from his bedroom mirror and whirl it off to warmer climes?

This small moment in the history of the internet shouts Singer! Mandel was, after all, offering a signed contract for his place in heaven, as well as another promising his permanent alienation from religious life and his vow never to attempt stealing his place back again. Isaac Bashevis Singer, this was made for you...

2 comments:

  1. David W. Landrum8:55 AM, May 31, 2013

    I was a huge fan of Isaac Bashevis Singer. As a young man I read The Estate, The Manor (both volumes of each) and read and taught The Slave. Read his short story collections. My children loved Zlata the Goat and Other Stories (my son, who is 28 still has a copy of the book). Intriguing to try to imagine his take and spin on the world in which we live today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi David--

    This piece of news seems irresistible! It's just made for him... But yes, it is fascinating to think what he would do with changing times.

    I've long loved his stories. "Gimpel the Fool" is perfection!

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.