Books: Wickedness and Wonders

THE COLLECTED STORIES by Isaac Bashevis Singer Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 610 pages; $19.95

A hallmark of literary modernism is the notion that readers must earn their places at the feet of the masters. Serious art requires extended initiations; Finnegans Wake is not for the fainthearted, nor will Proust reward the impatient. Isaac Bashevis Singer, 77, began writing at about the time that this avant-garde assumption was hardening into orthodoxy, and somehow he never got the message. He went on with his work under the illusion that authors were still required to prove...

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