Revealer editor Jeff Sharlet celebrates I.B. Singer’s 100th birthday – and the demons with which he populated his stories — in the Jewish Forward:

“Scholars may suppose they are tools of psychology, good Jews may insist they are mirrors in which we can glimpse the complex mind of God. But Jewish writers are, for the most part, a ‘pornographic, paranoid, freakish’ bunch. I am thinking here of the various Roths and Hoffmans and Grossmans and Goldbergs, not to mention Ginsberg, Bruce and Bukiet, Shteyngart (‘filthy immigrant bear,’ self-named), Goldstein (just plain filthy) and Ozick (most brilliant pornographer of all), plus the legions of lesser smut writers, poison pens and naysayers among whom I am proud to be numbered. We know better. Singer’s demons are as real and numerous as our own lusts and envies and vanities and voyeurisms and perversions, inversions, reversions, as real and quick and clever as our pettiest deceptions, the ones we thank God for granting us, lest we run out of stories. It bears repeating: Bashevis’s demons are no more a matter of literary metaphor than was the last furtive glance you cast at some desirable creature on the street. She, he — or, God help you, it — was real, and so was the devil leering right alongside you, the dybbuk possessing and filling you with fantasies most unclean and delightful. Thank you, I. B. Singer!”

Read more of “In Defense of His Amorality.”

Other highlights from the Forward’s fabulous special edition on Singer:

Princeton scholar Esther Schor on the ancestry of I.B. Singer’s demons:

“That there are evil spirits from the Lord is a fact that Jews learn in the Bible, where such spirits fell cities and ruin kings — most notably Saul, who wasted his time banishing the necromancers. Saul’s servants told him exactly Who sent an evil spirit to darken his mind, but most Jews have preferred to forget that evil spirits can come from God. (Why else, for two millennia, have we founders of monotheism been hospitable to the demons of our neighbors?) The track of our demons runs jaggedly throughout Jewish history; we’ve played host to Canaanite, Babylonian and Persian devils, and later, to Spanish and German imps. We let the baroque elaborations of the kabbalists erode over time into the apotropaism of Singer’s chasidic forebears…”

Read more of “My Favorite Demon.”

Ilan Stavans goes in search of Singer’s last words and finds truths that might have better been left unwritten. “Addicts, everyone knows, are difficult to satisfy: They don’t want more of the same, but they are ready to test limits, to be exigent in their rewards. Since the first moment I encountered the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer — in Spanish translations in the 1970s — I have been a confessed addict…” “Deconstructing Bashevis”

Dara Horn — one of The Revealer’s favorite novelists — on Singer family values and the three great writers they produced. “Imagination as a Group Effort.”

Judy Budnitz — a writer who has tried to emulate Singer — offers an appreciation of the difficulties of that task. “Hunting for the Magic.”

Plus: An excerpt from Singer sister Esther Singer Kreitman’s forgotten novel, Deborah;

and — print only — “Two,” a previously unpublished Singer story that will be read by Jeff Sharlet at the Forward’s birthday party for Bashevis, July 14, KGB Bar in Manhattan.