When Isaac Bashevis Singer passed away in 1991, he knew that his work would be left undone. He had left behind heaps and piles of material in his so-called “chaos room” – the walk-in closet where he kept manuscripts, clippings, notebooks, certificates, diplomas, awards, letters, and many other documents and objects from his literary and personal life. His son, Israel Zamir, wrote in his memoir that, during the last visit when his father’s mind was clear, Singer went into the chaos room and said, “Oh, my God, I’ve got to live another hundred years to edit the stories, translate them into English, and publish them.”
An Excerpt from David, the Scribbler: A Diary of Death Drive
I spent the first weeks of the covid lockdown at home working on several article revisions, including one on “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and when I was done, I looked up from my work and saw that the world was still stopped. When I thought about what to turn to next, it seemed to make sense to continue the essay I’d started earlier, which I’d named David, the Scribbler, and I realized I couldn’t really continue without integrating covid into the work. What had started as an essay on storytelling and death, now took on a reflective tone, and turned into a diary of covid and its effects on global society. It had not been part of my original impetus, but it had permeated into its continuation, just as it had done in all corners of all of our lives, changing everything we’d planned, and making us adjust to its advent – not unlike Bartleby.