Short Friday is a re-read. When I was in my twenties I asked I.B. Singer to inscribe this book, after awkwardly showing him one of my pieces.The current version of Short Friday has a picture of Barbara Streisand as Yentl on the cover—which somehow strikes me as unfortunate message about a writer who went way beyond the mainstram.To like this collection, you have to like Singer—his terse style ("my favorite part of speech is the noun" he said), and the kinds of stories he wrote—often folk tales with dark demons and illuminating moments—or stories about people who immigrated to America.(His story "The Letter Writer," in another collection is a magnificant fusion of these two.)Singer is a master along with Isaac Babel.His stories manage to be rich with characters yet have the simplicity of fables.Without any sentiment, they are infused with affection. Also, interestingly, they are are a form of magic realism long before it became popular because their excursions into the world of ghosts, imps and demons are drawn from a community of shared beliefs.In "A Wedding in Brownswville," ghosts appear from the walls and dance with the guests. In "The Last Demon," we hear the voice of a demon who draws his sustenance from a Yiddish storybook. There is great darkness in these stories, as well as light—and they were written at a time when the supernatural was hardly popular. Howeer even if they were written today, the authority of Singer's voice transcends genre and reverberates with the universal light and dark in all of us. A great re-read—as both a reader and a writer.
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