AMERICAN WRITERS, Volume 4 by Leonard Unger

By Leonard Unger

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Those who refuse to accept this basic truth, or to fulfill their mortal obligations, pay for such arrogance even after death. The line between this life and the next is too thin to offer escape. Thus neither life nor death guarantees peace. Yet in "The Beggar Said So" Singer does suggest that simple, unquestioning faith may make life meaningful and post-mortal serenity a possibility. Some, however, reject belief and kindness for lie and trick. These prove Satan's special delight. He enjoys nothing more, he explains in "A Tale of Two Liars," than the clever thief with a knack for self-destruction.

A disorderly array of new Jewish bohemians here mire themselves in emotional misdeeds and misjudgments just when Eastern Jewry is losing its social and religious coherence and Hasidism its wholeness and joy. They reveal little of the humanity, courage, or spirituality of the ghetto fighters in John Kersey's The Wall, published the same year. Nor are they the familiar Jewish stereotypes isolated in an alien setting. Torn between reason and flesh, orthodoxy and secularism, they form a vigorous, clamoring community hungry for good food, sex, wealth, and learning.

Yet despite terror, suffering, disappointment, they accept and even love life, being determined to endure. Singer refuses to apologize for his material. His stance is that of the traditional tale-spinner whose listeners grasp every outlandish allusion, nuance, and inflection. East Europe's Jewish world becomes a familiar, continuing culture and its complex structure of beliefs, customs, and loyalties understandable commonplaces. Distance, time, and cultural change are bridged without forced reverie or nostalgia.

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