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February 10, 1980 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-10
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%ge 6-Sunday, FebruaryW, 1980-The Michigan D TeMhgaal-udyFer

S

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The Mich iga oily-Sunday, Febru+

Books
Singer on love:
The older the better

James Dean's Gai,

F

Is this the end of, our he
Stay tuneod, dear readers, & find otA

By Jay McCormick
OLD LOVE
By Isaac Bashevis Singer
Farrar Straus Giroux
$10.95, 273 pp.
T O BE MORE THAN a tiny bit silly
about it, love is like a lump of
plutonium. Its very presence in the
world affects everyone whether or not
they come into contact with it. When
one finally does encounter it, the result
can be either enlightening or explosive.
To stretch things even further, writers
have been history's radiologists
digging for traces of, love, offering up
new insights into it and its effects. It is a
topic in which they never seem to lose
interest; and as much can be said for
the readers of fiction. After all, until
one can no longer love how could one
resist reading about it?
It is tales of the love of middle aged
and older people that Isaac Bashevis
Singer has chosen to gather in his
recent anthology of short stories, Old
Love. He unearths dark corners of his
characters' souls, digging out emotions
they will not face up to. Some are
beautiful ,, some disgusting, some

nothing but surprising. So it is with
Jove.
He also explores the effects of
people's love on others-lovers,
enemies, spouses-and the reactions
that rise up with and against it.
Betrayal and seduction crop up in
unusual settings among bizarre, mad
characters, and they involve innocent
bystanders until it finally becomes
evident that very few are innocent at
all.
Singer portrays a particularly
depressing and disgusting love
relationship in the striking story "One
Night in Brazil." An unusual, self-
gratifying, self-abusing couple drag the
narrator, a New York writer, into their
lives, in an effort to make him serve as
a catalyst for their faltering marriage.
The narrator at first describes the
couple with aversion, "Her breath
smelled of tobacco, alcohol, and
something putrid," and he keeps him-
self at a distance from the action. But
something clearly is awry; though he
says, "I had not the slightest urge for
this female," he nearly kills himself
trying to make love to her.
T HE IMAGERY tells half the tale.
The rain forest decays and de-

flesh from the face of the narrator as he
tries to make love to this woman, it is
evident that it is a shallow punishment
compared to what he will end re for
years afterwards.
Such lush or otherwise rich settings
consistently play major roles in these
stories of love. The Jewish neigh-

previous action, but because of it. The
actions are casually related, even the
unreasonable actions. Sometimes it is
not apparent what the cause was, but
the effect implies it all the same.
However, faith and religion oc-
casionally peek, just to refute complete
rationality. Singer_ does not accept

By Bodensee
S TAY CALM. It is true that this is the story I
promised when the coast was last clear, but it's
one you've all heard. I can't be held responsible, should
some of you find yourselves in the lines to come.,

Singer sculpts from the base material of
absurd pain and foibles real people-he
immerses us in the souls of imbeciles and
wise men and women.

M AP AAJ 6DL FtLLE COMPLfEX .

stroys as fast as it grows, and this
Jay Mc~2ormick is a Daily Assist- couple suffer only the first half of the
ant Night Editor, process. When mosquitoes tear the

borhoods of towns in Poland and Russia
have a different aura than those in Tel
Aviv or New York. Each of these set-
ti ngs provides enough material for
countless kinds of stories. The wealthy,
and poor may live only a few yards
from each other, but the important
material objects-the markets, streets,
synagogues-differ greatly.
Yet what truly makes these stories
living, breathing things is the charac-
ters. Singer sculpts from the base
material of absurd pain and foibles real
people-he immerses us in the souls of
imbeciles and wise men and women.
We surface, affected in one way or
another, refreshed, purged of our own
emotions, or enlightened.
In "Yochna-and Shmelke" Singer tells
the tale of a simple, young Jewish girl
whose whole reason for living is to
marry and care for a husband. Many
would ridicule such an attitude, but
Singer reveals the inert, strange beauty
of her values and successes. The "old
love" here, between two teenagers, is
traditional love. Yochna carries on
tradition against the elements and fate.
She becomes accepted by her peer
because of her success, and she
becomes successful because of her
unified life, her single goal'. That her
life begins in dissonance and resolves to
harmony is a tribute to her simpleness,

religion as a perfect answer, either. It
often oversteps its bounds, and he
shows that a balance between reason
and religion must be established in or-
der for the thinking human to survive.
All this directly influences the love men
and women feel for each other.
"The Boy Knows the Truth" tells of a
Rabbi torn by great passions. His faith
in the strict teachings of the Torah and

The end came as I finished Junior High. Lying there
under the principal's desk- I realized that The U.S.
Treasury Dept. had no intention of returning to the gold
standard, that I had played the fool yet again., The
realization was brutal. I was to spend my entire high
school career undergoing therapy to correct my
delusion that I was a building. Long nights spent
waiting for the night crew to come and sweep out my
floors, constant pain from the lightning rods on my
head, my elevators always out of order-I had all the
symptoms of a classic edifice complex. I still remem-
ber the laughter, so relentless that I had to take down
the building directory in my lobby for good.
I guess you know the rest. The point is that I left high
school almost completely cured. Only a quiet voice in
the back of my mind remains, suggesting that I might
be distantly related to a mobile home. The years I had
spent so under-insured had not been wasted. My mor-
tgage paid off, I began my quest for the truth.
To better define the object of my search, I pondered
the answers I already had:
--Germany, Italy, and Japan
-18 or older
-Charles I
- Yes
-Juneau
-The '27 Yankees
How did it all tie together? Where could I find a clue'?
I checked behind our furniture and my aunt, went
through my pockets a dozen times, and began to under-
stand the frustration of philosophical inquiry. Weeks
later, as I was unraveling some batteries, my parents
suggested that I leave the country. They could see that
my work in America was finished, that I was no or-
dinary man; destiny called me to Europe, and my
mother and father had put their faith in my intellect.
I'll never forget the peace on my father's face as he
drove me to the bus station.
THE uALT, PMA1e r
l -
-w. . (gm 1 V 1 ....I "'.
The road to Bodensee was a long one, with merciless
temptations to step to the side. But I was determined
and would not stray from the center. Dodging cars
became so exhausting that I was forced to leave my
box of records behind, and taunts from angry
motorists-they could not understand-startled me so
that I finally lost control of my kite. I took this as a
sign that. I needed a new direction, that the unifying
factor behind my present set of answers was unat-
tainable, and resolved to ask different questions. As a
sign of approval from the ancient philosophers who
guided my consciousness, I was hit by a poultry truck.
It was then that I knew the pain involved in humanity's
search for the ultimate reality.'

S Pe.F 0OA#VY 'ro 04Y SUL.P
as+rt ". me .*. ".."+m", r
The weeks of traction in the Krankenhaus afforded
me an occasional opportunity for deep contemplation.
Here I was in a land that only its citizens could call
home. As insight built upon itself, I realized that it was
imperative that I be misunderstood, and accordingly
spoke only to myself, in code. To further convey the
inaccessibility of my understanding, I began to laugh
out loud randomly, until it was obvious to everyone
that only I could see the tragicomic irony of humanity's
lot. What did I know? they wondered. My very presen-
ce was thought-provoking, and the injections became
more frequent. With the primal screams came the
results I had long awaited: I was recognized as a true
genius, the beatings stopped, and my belongings were
confiscated.
Iwas RCCc,(,17*AOs A &EN u.S
A T LAST I could begin my writings. As I began
cutting out letters, the index card bearing my
old set of answers fell from the watch pocket of a
faded pair of knickers I'd had blocked. Sadly, all the
crayon was smeared, denying me the fruits of my past
labors. My frustration brought to mind those oft-quoted
words of Bill Freehan, former Tiger poet-catcher,
from his masterpiece, Behind the Mask:
"Denny even flew his own plane to the games. "
If Denny could fly to the games, why couldn't I? Why
was I always picked last? It seemed as though I would
be defeated by my own frustration, and oh how I
fought bitterly to free myself from it. The following
Wednesday, while Dr. Tom was rebuilding the railing
along my wall, my glance became unexplainably fixed
upon the identification number stamped on my smock.
Days later, I looked up suddenly. Of course! D-27! Life,
as we know it, is numerical! I had uncovered the
ultimate relationship of all things (or at least a great
many things), and began to build on it. The eventual
realization that there are 27 innings in three regulation
baseball games threw me into a fit of philosophical ec-
stasy.
When the injection wore off, I awoke and was star-
tled to find that my room had mysteriously been ran-
sacked. I had been robbed, obviously by agents of the
Treasury Department who recognized the power of my
revelation. My belt, necktie, shoelaces, headband, and
canteen were gone. They had hidden my glasses,
defaced my aluminum siding, and tied my wrists to the
headboard. The fools! They had so feared my escape
that they had left my dissertaton on the vaporizer, un-
touched, the rubber cement not yet dry. Time was run-
ning out, and I could trust no one. Even Dr. Tom was in
on it. I knew that drastic measures had to be taken.

For the next few days, I feign
time would lull them into a s
would be taken from the pala
hospital, from which it would
Yet, I had underestimated th
apparently seen ,through myi
wait no longer. I masquerade
tray and was wheeled to the kit
I realize now that those day
were the most important of m
tions, I was free to let my mm(
my basic argument to its logi
pletely stand . .. understand1
people need a room without so
a minimum of air-holes. I had s
the practical and the aesthetic
was done, and I stepped fromr
toaster.
/ Couc.CwPAr Rl'
Ironically, the toaster had n
terweighted and as I fell my shi
in the aluminum-foil dispense
swing in a rapidly acceleratin
myself in a bizarre observation
except for the brainwashing ico
disguised as circus animals.
couldn't risk writing. With log
tempered steel, I began to orc
my head,,without moving my i1
Though the time had come in
recognize the pointlessness of th
so would have broken the back o
voices I heard as they gathered
at night. I could not make su
Tom, for I had been chosen1
swung open. Life as we know it]1
The rest is by now a legend.
premedical studies at the Un
Ocean, I met the lady who was1
commonly beautiful in that her
devoted to conference rooms.
Now, of course. I'm in the thic
pshire primary bustle. Campail
have me bound and gagged in a
the other candidates a fightir
though, I'm still leading in all t
my own personal poll), by a fa
billion. If nominated, I will~not p~
will not strut.
Bodensee is a student uni

ausimpleness not at all equivalent to the Talmud almost destroy him. He
stupidness. comes to believe that he killed his wife,
or at least pushed her other foot into the
cINGER GENERALLY heartily' grave because he yelled angrily at her
S develops more than just the~ main just before she died. His anger derived
character. He is not satisfied with flat from his passion for women, a passion
personalities, and avoids giving a he constantly worries about and
character a trait which is not explored punishes himself for. When she dies, he
or explained during the story., isolates himself, passing his duties on to
The last story of the collection plays his unsuitable son. The Rabbi is saved
forth Singer's virtuoso handling of by wisdom "outbf the mouth of babes."
characters to the utmost. In "The #Bus"' He accepts this for no rational reason,
the narrator becomes involved with nor for a particularly religious reason.
four fellow travellers, two couples who He makes a sort of great leap of faith
grab hold of him in a manner similar to back into existence. The irrational has
the crazed couple in "One Day in- its place, and can be powerfully useful
Brazil." Singer manages to make even on occasion. The Rabbi can once again
the most objectionable personalities practice his love for his fellow man.
understandable in this story. All sorts of love, and its ways and
The relationship between a mother- means are explored in Old Love. The
and her dominant genius son, and bet- lesson? Only that there are no lessons,
ween a Swiss banker and his tortured that no generalizations can or should be
neurotic wife are fascinating precisely made about such- an emotion. Isaac
because Singer peels away the outer - Ba'shevis Singer tells stories disar-
layers of his individuals in his typically mingly well. Who would expect such
superb manner-.slowly and com- truth in such enjoyable and-exciting
pletely. Each character's actions arise tales?
not as a sequence with his -or- her - :B,-Singer would.

r WARDEN

.iN

"-NO rtaeLLE To ESCAE.

Singer

..
,'

*. .,P ,-
v. e ' - }9

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