A Graveyard AlivenThe Collected Stories of IsaacnBashevis Singer; Farrar, Straus &nGiroux; New York.nIsaac Bashevis Singer did notnwin the Nobel Prize because ofngenius or his irrefutable beneficialitynto the human race. Henwon it because he is the mostnskillful remaining chronicler of anculture that has become extinctnin our own lifetime, a culturenthat now has as much meaningnfor the species as the Cretan ornMayan cultures. But there is onenfundamental qualitative difference:nif the cultures of Greece ornpre-Columbian America leftnlegacies of institutions worthy ofnstudy, or of decayed architecturalnaccomplishments worthntraveling miles to observe, thenculture of the Central andnEastern European Jewish Diasporanwill be remembered for itsnliterariness. That does not meannphilosophy and disciplined profunditiesnof thinking, but annoverpowering sense of heartwarmingnwisdom encompassednin religious commentaries andnfolkloric fables and formulatednin an endemic language. Therenwere many who contributed tonit, making Yiddish—for twoncenturies—a language of absorbingnflexibility, but in ourntime Mr. Singer has emerged asnthe prime connoisseur and collectornof those wilting treasures.nAlmost all of Singer is in thisnheavy volume of 610 pages: hisnflippant shallowness, his pseudoerudition,nhis sexual snobbery,nhis ego- and megalomaniacalnself-promotion. Singer is anwriter who never has anythingnbad to say about himself, nevernanything probingly derogatory,nnothing more penetrating thanna tender, self-serving irony—nwhich disqualifies him as a seri-nI ous writer and makes him an en­n38inChronicles of Ciiltarenjoyable second-rate one. Thenfirst-rate writers have alwaysnwaged an endless battle withnand within themselves, an elementnthat certainly does not existnin Singer’s work. But there isnan inalienable magic, kindness,nwarmheartedness in Singer, thenseductive guile of storytelling atnits very best, an ability to speaknwith subtle mock-sagacity, anDust to DustnWendell Berry: The Gift ofnGood Land: Further EssaysnCultural and Agricultural; NorthnPoint Press; San Francisco.nFortunate or not, many of usnare in concert with Charles Lamb,nthe 19-century archurbanite.nLamb wrote to Wordsworth:nI don’t much care if I nevernsee a mountain in my life. Inhave passed all my days innLondon, until I havenformed as many and intensenlocal attachments as any ofnyour mountaineers can havendone with dead nature. Thenlighted shops of the Strandnand Fleet Street, the innumerablentrades, tradesmen,nand customers,ncoaches, waggons, playhouses,nall the bustle andnwickedness round aboutnCovcnt Garden, the verynwomen of the town, thenwatchmen, drunken scenes,nrattles—life awake, if younawake, at all hours of thennight, the impossibility ofnbeing dull in Fleet Street,nthe crowds, the very dirtnand mud, the sun shiningnupon houses and pavements,nthe print shops, thenold bookstalls, parsonsncheapening books, coffeehouses,nsteams of soupsnfrom kitchens, the pan-nnarrative intensity which ovetcomesnall cultural gaps andnethnic boundaries. I.B. Singernhas a God-given gift for blendingnfiction with experience; henhas a genuine passion for thencultural roots and traditions conveyednto him by the generationsnof his own. He has proved thatnhe knows how to perpetuatenthese values in the aftermath of anHolocaust in which both hisnpeople and their spiritualnsubstances have perished; fornthis, he deserves our highestnrecognition. Dntomime, London itself anpantomime and a masquerade—allnthese things worknthemselves into my mindnand feed me, without anpower of satiating me. Thenwonder of these sights impelsnme into night-walksnabout her crowded streets,nand I often shed tears in thenmotley Strand from fiilnessnof joy at so much life.nFew shed tears while on JeffersonnAvenue in Detroit, Canal Streetnin New Orleans, or any like thoroughfaresnin major cities, butnthe number who do shed tearsn(perhaps only figuratively) over,nsay, the lack of New York’s 42ndnStreet in their lives because of annemployment-related move isnvery large, indeed. Those whonhave lived in large cities for anynlength of time often have an intimate—almostsensual—relationshipnwith thern. But evennLamb had a soft spot in his citifiednheart for nature. As ArthurnnnSymons pointed out, Lambnwrote to Coleridge: “I feel that Inshall remember your mountainsnto the last day I live. They hauntnme perpetually.” Clearly, thenlure of nature is strong.nWendell Berry is a farmer,nplain and simple. Few cityndwellers pay any attention tonfarmers. Farm price supports occasionallynmake the headlines,nand farmers have been known tonwheel their tractors into Washington,nD.C., but typicallynfarmers are considered a foreignnbreed and often dismissed asnmere hicks. Farmer is the operativenterm here, nox. agribusinessman.nThe latter term refers tonthe type of person who runs ancolossal farm the same way thatnRoger Smith runs GeneralnMotors: from the top, from afar.nThe farmer can be identified bynthe dirt under his fingernailsnduring working hours, which fornhim span a period much longernthan nine to five. Berry is vociferouslynopposed to agribusinessmen—whosennumber is increasing—thosenwho have, iti his estimation,nperverted Americannagriculture from what was once ancareful, loving husbandry of thenland charactetized by “modestncompetence, thrift, and industry”nto a short-term, profitorientednactivity “based on industrialnprinciples, exotic crops,nfossil fuel, and fossil waternpumped from drilled wells.”nBerry thinks that the former,n”the principles of thrift andncare,” are “indispensable to thensurvival of human beings.” Thenlatter, “modern industrial farmingn. . . enormous, costly fields,ndependent for their productivitynon large machines, fossil fuels,nchemical fenUizers, insecticides,nand herbicides,” will “sooner ornlater [lead to] hunger.”nBerry is not an alarmist kook,nthe type who drives a Volvo orntrots in a Gloria Vanderbilt joggingnsuit to the local health-foodnemporium for granola and herbntea; he is a cultural conservativen