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Old Love by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Old Love (original 1970; edition 1979)

by Isaac Bashevis Singer

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195360,388 (3.71)5
Title:Old Love
Authors:Isaac Bashevis Singer
Info:New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, c1979. x, 273 p. ; 22 cm.
Collections:Your library, To read

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Old Love by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1970)



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They (whoever they are) constantly harp that one should write what one knows. No doubt, if you write what you don't know you run the risk (you are almost certain to experience the risk) of, at best, making the reader step outside of the experience (abolishing the suspension of disbelief) and, at worst, making the author look like a fool. On the other hand, I am firmly convinced that the author who dives too deeply into what he or she knows runs the risk of leaving the reader behind with no frame of reference for why that reader should even care.

That Singer knows what he is writing about is obvious. And for me to imply that Singer has gone too far into his world – that he has jumped too deeply into his world – would be foolish. Yet, I found myself wondering if I had been refused access to some private club – that I was on the outside trying to look in through frosted glass.

Singer's work is steeped in Jewish traditions. And he is a skilled writer who can bring anyone into his world. My personal example is his novel Satan in Goray. It takes great skill for a 21st Century Protestant (that's me) to understand and care about the happenings of a group of 17th Century Polish Jews. A wonderful book I have recommended. Similarly, I enjoyed the collection The Seance and Other Stories.

So, why is it that this collection did not resonate? Why is it that, while I was not particularly bored, I just didn't feel as invested in these stories? I can't really tell you, other than to say that I felt separated from the people and events in these stories. Upon completion of the stories, I didn't feel as though I had gained anything from them. And it all felt like I wasn't drawn as completely into the Jewish traditions and situations that were on display.

These are not bad stories. I enjoyed them. But the culmination of the collection left me feeling that something was missing.

I apologize; I cannot give you more. Maybe I wasn't paying them the proper amount of attention. Maybe I wasn't at the right place in my life to read them. Maybe I'm just a horrible human being.

All I can say is this: A good collection, a nice collection, but not a collection I would rush back to with anticipation. ( )
  figre | Aug 26, 2013 |
Like any Singer collection, this one contains good stories, great ones, and those that are positively wonderful.

In explaining the use of the given title for this collection, Singer's introductory note tells us that "The love of the old and the middle aged is a theme that is recurring more and more in my works of fiction." Although not every story in this book deals with love encountered late in life, many do, and love figures prominently in every tale.

To single any one of these stories out is difficult, every one conveys a love of life and all that comes with it, from the grime to the sublime. Nothing is too marvelous for Singer to pass up on, and nothing is too mundane: death is there, and decay, and nakedness and lust; but also holiness and piety. Throughout all there is truth.

If pressed, I might have to say among my favorites from this collection are "Two," a tale of transgendered lovers in the Poland of Singer's youth; "Elka and Meir," telling of the relationship between two hard-working morticians; "Brother Beetle," in which the hero spends a cold night naked in an outhouse on the roof of a Tel Aviv apartment building; and "Tanhum," in which a pious young scholar chooses the Torah over the wealth and beauty of his bride to be.

Read this book! You won't be sorry. ( )
  TurtleBoy | Dec 27, 2007 |
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Titles: One Night in Brazil; Yochna and Shmelke; Two; The Psychic Journey; Elka and Meir; A Party in Miami Beach; Two Weddings and One Divorce; A Cage for Satan; Brother Beetle; The Boy Knows the Truth; There Are No Coincidences; Not for the Sabbath; The Safe Deposit; The Betrayer of Israel; Tanhum; The Manuscript; The Power of Darkness; The Bus
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