Lesson from a Montego Bay Pool: Whatever You Do, Don't Mention Isaac Bashevis Singer

By Jeffrey Goldberg

The screenwriter Michael Tolkin ("The Player"), e-mailed Goldblog to reminisce about Inna Grade, the widow of the great Yiddish novelist Chaim Grade. (You can read more about Inna Grade and her obsessions -- most notably, her belief that Isaac Bashevis Singer was, in fact, Satan -- here.) Tolkin:

Your Inna Grade link brought back me back to the summer of 1974, when I went to Jamaica for a week after graduating college. The travel agent sent me to a guest house in the hills instead of a beach resort, and the only other people staying there were two Jewish women in their sixties. I had dinner with them a few times in the nearly empty restaurant. They pitied me for the bad luck in drawing them as the only babes at the pool, but I was in a semi-shattered state and just wanted to read and drink. One of them, Hessie Cooperman, taught Yiddish literature at the New School. The other may have been Inna Grade. My only evidence is the way they responded when I told them that as a senior, I had led a winter term reading group devoted to Singer. A chill wind blew from Tarnopol to Montego Bay. They ranted about Singer's reception, and insisted that there was someone else who deserved all the glory, and this was not a mild disagreement over opinion, this was religion. I remember them at all probably because of something else I heard from Cooperman. I told her I wanted to be a writer, and she said. "You will be a writer, but you won't write anything good until you're forty." She was off by a few years, but I believed her, and the prophecy kept me going, and still does. Now it's time to read Grade.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/05/lesson-from-a-montego-bay-pool-whatever-you-do-dont-mention-isaac-bashevis-singer/56666/