In November 1964, the writer and broadcaster Studs Terkel recorded an interview for his radio show with Isaac Bashevis Singer, the main subject of which was the latter’s collection Short Friday and Other Stories, which had appeared the previous year. In the recording—recently made available online together with a complete transcript—Singer speaks frankly about his approach to literature and human nature. Terkel at one point states, “What you are, primarily, is a storyteller,” a characterization Singer accepts:
Singer: I think that literature suffers nowadays a lot from the fact that writers don’t pay much attention to the story. They think that it’s enough to describe a piece of life, so to say. . . . I don’t think so. I think a story is the most important thing for writing. You have to have something to tell. If a writer has nothing to tell, no matter how well he writes, he will never bring out anything which is really good.
People [today] are so much interested in psychology, and in psychoanalysis, and so on that they think that you just can describe a man. But this is not enough. Something must happen. . . . I would say that the rules of literature are the same as the rules of a newspaper—you cannot just publish something every day. . . . There must be a story behind every story.
Later in the interview, discussing the role of the demonic and the supernatural in his writing, Singer makes a point of stating that he considers himself “a kind of a mystic.”
Terkel: Would you mind, perhaps, expanding on this just a bit?
Singer: What I mean by this is that I feel that what we know about life and about ourselves is not everything. There are hidden powers which we don’t know and which we may never know. And I always feel these powers. For example, telepathy is such a power; we all have it although we don’t know why, and how it works, and we can never foresee when it will work. But it’s still there. The same thing is true about the dreams which come true, and so on and so on. I would say that there is some mystic in every human being, even in those who deny it.