THE BRIGHT STREETS OF SURFSIDE: The Memoir of a Friendship with Isaac Bashevis Singer by Lester Goran

THE BRIGHT STREETS OF SURFSIDE: The Memoir of a Friendship with Isaac Bashevis Singer

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Sometimes a memoir writer makes the unfortunate decision to turn a potentially good 20-page article into a work many times that length. Goran's book is Exhibit A. Goran, a novelist (Mrs. Beautiful, not reviewed, etc.) and English professor at the University of Miami, co-led a weekly creative writing course there with Isaac Bashevis Singer for a decade (1978-88) while also helping translate and edit some of Singer's stories. His portrait of their friendship consists largely of seemingly verbatim transcripts of conversations; how they were remembered or recorded is never explained. Occasionally puckish or otherwise witty, these exchanges far too often consist of forgettable banter. Goran works diligently to capture an intense, decade-long friendship, and offers an occasional piquant observation (e.g., a reference to Singer's ""giddy savage world""). But for a teacher of writing, he also delivers himself of some peculiar, portentous prose (e.g., ""He remains for me the spokesman of our dilemma of unbelonging"") and cites some dubious second- and third-hand reports of ""acts"" and ""quotes"" (he quotes Singer as having remarked that Elie Wiesel, a fellow Jewish-European-American Nobel laureate, allegedly complained to a friend in Paris that ""Isaac Singer is the worst enemy of the Jews after Hitler""; Goran apparently made no effort to verify these words). At times, he does step back from their conversations to portray more vividly the very sad, even pitiable, man Singer had become at the end of his life: often lonely, misanthropic, melancholy, self-centered, and emotionally withholding. In his last few years (the octogenarian Singer died in 1991) his tendency towards absentmindedness and fearfulness became considerably more pronounced. But this memoir is sad too for what it reveals about the author, who seems largely unable to winnow out much of substance from a great deal of oral fluff.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1994
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Kent State Univ.