Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side

Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side

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Photographs by Bruce Davidson with introductions by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ilan Stavans, Jill Meredith and Gabriele Werffeli.

"An understated and moving memoir that feels like a road trip with a really good friend. But more than that, it's a subtle social commentary, a travel story, a coming out, and an epitaph for the ghost towns of the West. Chasing Montana will be a new road favorite for meandering women across the land."

–Mack Friedman, author of Setting the Lawn on Fire

Singer's own New York

In 1973, the Yiddish writer and Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer collaborated with New York documentary photographer Bruce Davidson to make a surreal film, Isaac Bashevis Singer's Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko's Beard. This film was at once a documentary about Singer's New York and a dramatization of one of his short stories. The film grew out of the pair's friendship as residents of the same building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and their common interest in New York City street life. During and after production, Davidson made numerous portraits of Singer and also returned to the Lower East Side for a documentary series of photographs.

A selection of these stunning images made between 1957 and 1990 is available here for the first time. The book also includes portraits of Singer, stills from the film, the black and white portfolio known as The Garden Cafeteria, and selections from Davidson's Lower East Side series. The Garden Cafeteria was a collaboration depicting denizens of the East Broadway restaurant frequented by Singer during his trips to The Jewish Daily Forward. The portfolio has never before been published nor exhibited in its entirety. Included is an introduction by Singer himself on Davidson's images; an in-depth interview with Davidson about his art, aesthetic and political views, and his Jewishness; and a reflective, contextual essay by Ilan Stavans on this collaboration between the writer and the photographer. Through Davidson's lens we see Singer's literary world of Holocaust survivors and émigrés from Eastern Europe—a displaced culture in its twilight.

Paperback book

University of Wisconsin Press, 2004

Published in conjunction with an exhibition by the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in the centennial year of Singer's birth.