Review of Shadows on the Hudson by Isaac Bashevis Singer

I would like to point out to any would-be literary authors that adultery is not a fundamental physical law of the universe.

I. B. Singer first ensorcelled me through his stories. Those are recommended for any fan of Chekhov or Maupassant. But like those two masters, this one’s technique becomes too apparent in the long form, and the technique is not innovative when stretched out over 560 pages.

In this first novel of his I have read, and passively enjoyed, I was treated to much indecent exposure to the author’s comfort zones. These are similar to erogenous zones in the sense that successful authors can’t stop stroking them. When author’s choose to write about one sect, about one type of personality, and about one act countless times, it lowers the value of their overall output. They seem to be trying to tell us something important in the space of 8000 pages which might have been expressed more poetically over 300 pages. I. B. Singer writes about the Jewish people, their tenure in New York, Poland, and selected other locales. Yet, the beauty of these depictions lie in their universal moral core, their grounding in Torah, their subtle humor, and their clean exuberance. Yet, if you believe that Woody Allan remade the same movie 55 times then you will suspect this author of applying the formula to his books, I fear. He recasts characters, who go through the same process of sinning and repenting, growing and dying, whining and excreting, blubbering and moaning, rutting and birthing new monstrosities, accusing and casting the first stone. This mechanistic approach may be effective in moderate doses, but you can decide rather to focus on the author’s pristine snippets of wisdom, summing up religious truths in secular format, boiling down all of the wretchedness of this life, which is the pigpen we have fashioned from the mud of our vices and repetitious behavior. One life resembles another. Nature persists, even as our bones molder, our families fall to ruin, our houses crumble and new children are born that they may fight this tide of iniquity and prejudice, this competitive game with incomprehensible rules. Superstition composes the entire fabric of existence.

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