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A Crown of Feathers

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  493 ratings  ·  29 reviews
These richly hypnotic tales enfold the reader into Isaac Bashevis Singer's special world of imps, demons, lovers, and other mischievous creatures. His world is a world of feelings, driven by lust, lechery, greed, madness, and love. All of his creatures are seen with a clear but loving eye; all seem and are in fact possessed by good and evil, caught in fascinating dilemmas, ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 1st 1981 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1973)
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4.10  · 
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 ·  493 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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It's been nearly 30 years since I last looked at this excellent collection of short stories, but some of them still visit my thoughts regularly. My favorite is the guy who seduces his neighbor by turning up in her bedroom one night and saying that he's a demon from Hell. It's pitch black, and she's not sure if she's dreaming or awake. She gives him everything he wants, and he tells her fantastic stories of the Infernal Realms. The next night, he comes back again: same deal. This goes on for year ...more
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some of the finest short stories I have ever read, and I have not read many. Isaac Singer has an uncanny ability to merge realism with Jewish folklore and mythology. I loved the way his focus always stays on people, mostly the immigrant community, but the background is not only its American setting but a vast Jewish experience. The tales vary greatly in theme and content where the ancient always hover over the modern. In my mind, this book and Will Eisner's awesome graphic novel "A Contract with ...more
I’m just not a magic person. Unless ‘wand’ has an obvious coarse connotation, I don’t want one in my book. I don’t want devils, demons or invisible crowns of feathers in pillows. I don’t care if the spell is portrayed in an elegant way by Singer or a basic way for children by Rowling. I hereby give up on Singer, this is my second stab at him and I’m not finishing this one. This despite the fact that it isn’t all magic driven. The second story ‘A Day in Coney Island’ avoids all that – and I know, ...more
I liked the opening stories so much I decided to sparse out the rest of the collection and just read one a day. However, toward the middle of this collection, I realized that many felt similar. A character is met in a cafeteria and that character tells his story. Some of these stories fell into the "magic realism" territory which is a genre that's becoming one of my favorites. And because of my lack of understanding the finer points of the jewish religion, there were comments and storylines I ju ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Nie dajcie się oszukać tej ocenie.
Opowiadania Singera są genialne, ale tak mocno autentyczne, że aż podchodzą pod naturalizm. Czytanie 300 stron tego typu opowieści pod rząd, jest stanowczo zbyt dużym ładunkiem emocjonalnym, jak dla mnie.
Chyba najbardziej podobały mi się opowiadania "Dzień na Coney Island" i "Na wozie", ale sami musicie ocenić. W każdym razie to kawał dobrej literatury.
Bob Newman
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
magical stories from a lost era

Polish Jewry under Russian rule, the Jews in post-1918 Poland, the exiled survivors of the Holocaust in New York---all these are times and people of the past. Nothing of them really survives. Yiddish is but a pale shadow of its former self. So even the words here are like pink clouds of last week's sunset. How they struggled ! How they loved, fought, schemed and sacrificed--the writers, the revolutionaries, the holy men, the pretenders, the warped geniuses, the dis
Maxwell Bauman
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Singer has a habit in many of his stories where the narrator will meet another character (more often than not in a cafeteria) and that character will then tell a story about their life, or someone else's. It's an interesting way to frame a story, especially because the speaker comes across as much more relaxed and candid.
There were four stories in particular that resonated with me. "A Crown of Feathers," "A Day in Coney Island," "The Third One," and "Grandfather and Grandson." If you read anythi
Mike Zickar
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a delight! These stories are largely set in Warsaw, though some are set in New York City, and others in Russia. I just love the view into a different world, a different time, a different religion. Although many of the characters suffer tremendously in these stories, Singer writes with such delight and joy that its hard not to have a smile at the end of nearly each story.

I could reread these stories over and over again for the rest of my life!
Jerry Pogan
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Outstanding collection of short stories. Singer creates such great characters and situations. His books are always a pleasure to read.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Magnificent collection - my favorite so far from Singer. I prefer the New York stories over the "Old World" ones and this collection has more of those. The New York stories have a very poignant atmosphere of alienation, a sense of discomfort with the world - great sadness mixed with humor and resignation. Most of them take place in the years after the Holocaust, and there is a condemnation of God and "His ways" throughout these stories, often conveyed with a few words in passing. There is a pers ...more
Mark Greenbaum
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is a good deal of repetition in framing here, most stories in the collection centered around either a starving writer passing time with his fellow emigres in the dingy NYC cafeteria or a poor Jew in the old country, both trying desperately to find their place in the world. These stories remind me more than a little bit of Jerzy Kosinski's work, with their sense of alienation and quiet despair, their anonymity (the protagonist in both Crown and Steps is never named), albeit with Singer's wo ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are 24 very well written, easy to read, engaging short stories, averaging 10 to 12 pages each. The stories are about characters and events in their lives. Each story is intriguing, never boring. The themes are relationships, lovers, beliefs, settling in a new country... A number of stories start with someone coming into a cafe and meeting the protagonist who is a well known writer. The character, usually a male, then tells their story to the writer. Particularly enjoyed The Briefcase and A ...more
Dwight Penny
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting stories. Most of these were not the folk tales he's famous for, but second-hand stories, passed on to a narrator who happens to be a writer of Yiddish folk tales, by neighbors, other writers, readers who drop in on him. I was surprised at how many of them were about sex, and how ambiguous they were -- that is, they were not very moralistic. They hover in a world between religious tradition and atheistic existentialism. I got another collection in the bargain (free), called Passion. I ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A satisfying book packed with very fine short stories.
May 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Singer is a meaty writer. He's not someone whose stories I can plow through 4 or 5 at a time. And, even when I don't find an entire collection to be a masterpiece, I find him worthwhile to read and walk away with at least a handful of stories I felt strongly for.

A consistent theme throughout his writing is the crossroads of where tradition and religion meet modern thought and life. There's some understanding that must be met for those tradition and evolution to coalesce. And Singer's characters
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a National Book Award, Singer has collected a series of his stories under the title "A Crown of Feathers". I've read much of his work over and years, as many of the short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, and after reading about half of the stories in this volume, I decided to lay it aside. The awards he has received have been well-deserved, as his work provides a resource for those of us who want to understand the culture of immigrants from pr ...more
Susan Fetterer
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Forging ahead in this entry of the Moveable Feast's year dedicated to National Book Award winning short story collections.....

Crown of Feathers is a kaleidoscope of snapshots and conversations underscored by pogrom and persecution. Immigration to the U.S. in the early 20th century fractured families resulting in generational rifts. Language hampered adaptation, new approaches challenged old Judaic traditions as Jews moved from Russia to Poland to the U.S.

E.B. Singer's stories within stories a
Natalie Petchnikow
Que ce soit à New York ou à Varsovie, Isaac Bashevis Singer, en véritable maître conteur, construit un univers extraordinaire, hanté de démons, de revenants, de rabbins ou de révolutionnaires, d'artistes et de femmes perdues. Témoignages hauts en couleur d'un monde presque anéanti par la barbarie nazie, ces histoires ont résolument le parfum et la saveur de la culture yiddish. Mais les préoccupations de l'auteur dépassent largement les frontières de la rue Krochmalna et du Lower East Side. Dans ...more
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A collection of short stories published largely in the New Yorker about Polish Jews, dubbuks (household demons), love and lust and being Jewish. The stories verge on being folk tales. The Lost was creepy with Zbowly Muchtei as the demon-fiance and The Dance was a musicless dance between son and mother imagined as the Nazi bombs destroyed their apartment building. Short story collection are not my favorite, but this was one of the best ranking with London and Cheever.
Sam K G
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction
This is a brilliant collection of stories from one of the America's greatest writers. There is no match to Singer's range and depth--to his empathy, spirit or written voice. Pick up this collection and read the first story (A Crown of Feathers, the title story) and you will understand why I need say nothing more.
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is like coming home. There is something very deeply touching, something so well known for me, that forces me to love these stories unconditionally. I dream of Lublin and Zamość, I see my beloved Warsaw and Wilno. And I want to go back to the time of these stories, pray to G-d and be grateful. Oy, these stories are pure gold.
Mark Klempner
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love Isaac Bashevis Singer's short stories . . . they open up the world of my grandparents and greatgrandparents and forge a link between my generation and theirs. The writing is nothing fancy but that's part of the beauty of it . . . unlike with, say, Nabokov, I don't get distracted by the prose style and just sink into the story and Singer sure knows how to tell a story.
Repetitive, crass, magical. The title story and closing story, "Grandfather and Grandson," were my favorites. Tied with Gravity's Rainbow for the National Book Award in 1974.
Beth Shields-Szostak
Jun 22, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: signed
1st edition; paid $8
Lev Ratinov
Apr 04, 2015 rated it liked it
didn't get it and couldn't relate...
carl  theaker

Had a Jewish Grad Ass for Contemporary Fiction and he was
going to make darn sure we were going to be introduced to
Jewish fiction and we were. I appreciated the cultural

Mirka Breen
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Stronger than I. B. Singer's later novel, Shosha, this is an amazing book.
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was ok

Sadly, the sexism transcends religion. The overall attitude towards women here is very similar in tone to many other male writers of all religions in that time period.
Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: children
hush, goodnight, hush
rated it really liked it
Dec 30, 2008
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Polish American author of Jewish descent, noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.
His memoir, "A Day Of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw", won the U.S. National Book Award in Children's Literature in 1970, while his collection "A Crown of Feathers