Archive for Isaac Bashevis Singer

2008 Reading Project

Posted in Reading List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2017 by jaclemens

I joined Goodreads in April 2008 and began adding titles right away to my to-read shelf. These titles were the books I most wanted to read, foremost on my list, and yet some of them can still be found lingering in to-read limbo today. I realized that if I did not rectify this situation in 2017, I will be lamenting – not celebrating – my 10 year anniversary next spring!

Looking back on that first year, I read 44 books, many of them formative for my development as a book buyer. Three books by Michael Chabon (not my first, but it cemented his place as one of my favorite authors); three by Brandon Sanderson (ibid); The Book Thief; American Gods; Wicked; Reinhold Niebuhr and Isaac Bashevis Singer; and The Stress of Her Regard (one of my top ten favorite books), among other great reads. It was a tremendous year of reading for me, so it’s no slight on the books I didn’t get to in 2008.

Since then I have read plenty of books and added plenty more to my to-read list. From 2009 to 2011, I managed to move 20 more of my 2008 books from to-read to read (past tense), so it isn’t as if I forgot about the books that had earlier caught my eye. However, I have made no progress on that subset of books since re-reading The Stress of Her Regard in 2011. I wouldn’t say that I lost interest after three years – or that more appealing books intervened – but, for one reason or another, those books did not fit into my immediate reading plan.

In 2017, I will be reading 1-2 books each month from my 2008 list in order to finish the remaining 18 that have gone neglected for the last six years. I started my project in February with a pair of timely titles: 1984 by George Orwell and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I plan to read a larger amount of new releases combined with other books that haven’t languished as long on my to-read list, but the 2008 books will provide the basis for my reading this year. I don’t anticipate writing a review for every book I read in 2017, but hopefully working through the books I wanted to read back then will help recapture some of the magic of buying and reading books in 2008!


Isaac B. Singer: A Life review

Posted in New release, reviews with tags , , on July 22, 2008 by jaclemens

Isaac Bashevis Singer had so many identities it is difficult to contain all of them in a single biography. A Pole who emigrated to America, he is all but dismissed in his homeland. Descended from seven generations of rabbis, he embraced a secular lifestyle. A champion of the Yiddish language, he was rejected by the traditional Yiddish community. Singer wrote his stories in Yiddish then rewrote them in English, creating two distinct works rather than a set of translations. It would seem appropriate to write his biography in two volumes in order to capture the duality of his nature. Isaac B. Singer: A Life by Florence Noiville (Northwestern University Press, $14.95) is a single volume, and a slender one at that, but there is a disjointed feeling to the book. That may be attributed to Noiville or Catherine Temerson, who translated the book from French, or it may be the paradoxical legacy of Singer himself. This is not a concise analysis of Singer’s life and writing; readers interested in such critical writing should read Jonathan Rosen’s article in the June 7, 2004 issue of The New Yorker instead. This is a book for the reader who is interested in another perspective on an author so unique that no comprehensive interpretation of his life can be written by mortal hands!