In 1975, twenty-one-year-old Dvorah Telushkin wrote a letter to the great Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, offering to drive him to and from a creative writing class in return for permission to attend the course. The literary master, then seventy-one, accepted the offer, which led to a twelve-year-long apprenticeship for Telushkin.
Throughout Dvorah Telushkin's tenure with Singer, she kept detailed diaries chronicling both their literary efforts and the evolution of their personal relationship. Indeed, Telushkin was the one person to whom Singer tried to teach his craft as a writer. She writes about the great moments in Singer's public life, his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, his fiery encounter with the Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, his surprising meeting with Barbra Streisand, who adapted and starred in the movie version of Singer's short story "Yentl." But the private Singer is revealed as well, the "merry pessimist" haunted by despair and torn between the old-world ethic of his Hasidic forebears in Europe and the moral abandon of modern secular man.
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Dvorah Menashe Telushkin is a renowned storyteller who worked for twelve years as all-around assistant to Isaac Bashevis Singer. She first studied storytelling at Bard College and then Yiddish at Columbia University. She has performed all over the country and abroad. She lives in New York and is well known at storytelling festivals nationwide.From Kirkus Reviews:
For most of the last 14 years of his life, I.B. Singer was assisted by Telushkin, a bright young woman who, in this charming and often poignant memoir, recalls their relationship with striking candor. When Telushkin offered to drive the Nobel laureate to Bard College for the seminar he was teaching--in exchange for being allowed to audit the course--she never expected that he would agree, or that it would lead to a lengthy and turbulent professional and personal relationship with the last of the great Yiddish writers. The man she encountered was a natural charmer, an inveterate flatterer whose childlike demeanor could include the tantrums and dark moods of a spoiled child. Over the course of their time together, she went from being an unpaid chauffeur to serving as his secretary, amanuensis, and eventually a translator of some 20 of his short stories; she also became a close friend, frequent confidant, and surrogate daughter. Telushkin eventually found a second career for herself as a storyteller, and Master of Dreams is a storyteller's book; although it has a loosely chronological structure, it is really a series of thematically linked anecdotes, illuminating a complex, often disturbing character. In the course of his nearly 90 years of life, Singer abandoned or wounded nearly everyone he had been close to, from the son he ignored to his wife of 51 years. Telushkin is no exception, and much of the book's power comes from the excruciating deterioration of their friendship as the psychic demons that drove the writer combined with the no less potent hobgoblins of age and physical breakdown. But the portrait that emerges is by and large a loving one, often lovely to read, honest to a fault, and the man portrayed comes across as an admirable figure, albeit one with huge flaws. (b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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