THE IMAGE AND OTHER STORIES by Isaac Bashevis Singer


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Unlike Old Love (1979), which offered a perfectly balanced mixture of Singer's Old World (passionate, mystical) and his autobiographical New World (comic, whimsical), this new story collection is weighted heavily--and a little monotonically--toward Old World tales of wayward lust, doomed triangles, and tortured sinners. And the zestiest of these wry yet feverish morality plays is the brief "On the Way to the Poorhouse," which plays a sly game with reader expectations: the story's opening pages churn up more than a little sympathy for paralyzed prostitute Tsilka, who's about to be deported to the Lublin poorhouse by the townsfolk Of Janow, but Tsilka--a veritable embodiment of lust itself, perhaps even "she-demon"--proves to be more than capable of looking out for her own interests. Elsewhere, too, Singer's familiar ambivalence about sin--sometimes recoiling in horror from its power, sometimes surrendering with a shrug--can add ironic texture to rather flat studies in disastrous passion. But quite often here the stories of temptation and reception are un-attractively reminiscent of Singer's most recent, most moralizing novel, The Penitent--while only a few of the Old World tales go beyond the lust-and-greed formula: the intriguing "Why Heisherik Was Born," with its portrait of compulsive martyrdom; a mini-satire of Jewish-leftist politics in 1936 Poland; an effective account of an encounter with "astral" nemesis. And the modestly amusing "Confused" is the only piece this time in Singer's up-to-date confessional vein--with the famous writer farcically pursued by at least two disturbed women. ("I am in need of a psychiatrist myself, but since I believe neither in Freud nor in Adler or Jung, who could be my healer?") Less comic, varied, and compelling than the best Singer collections, then, with only fleeting glimpses of the Writers' Club and the "literary cafeteria"--but a generous, vigorous gathering nonetheless.
Pub Date: June 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0374520798
Page count: 326pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1985


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