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1. Foreign Bodies
2. The Shawl
3. The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories
4. Belonging Too Well: Portraits
5. Cynthia Ozick (Bloom's Modern
6. Understanding Cynthia Ozick (Understanding
7. A Cynthia Ozick Reader
8. Heir to the Glimmering World
9. Metaphor & Memory
10. Levitation: Five Fictions (Library
11. Quarrel & Quandary: Essays
12. Collected Stories
13. Trust: A Novel
14. The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel
15. Cynthia Ozick (Twayne's United
16. Dictation: A Quartet
17. Fame & Folly: Essays
18. The Messiah of Stockholm
19. Those Who Forget the Past: The
20. The Uncompromising Fictions of

1. Foreign Bodies
by Cynthia Ozick
Hardcover: 272 Pages (2010-11-01)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$16.30
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0547435576
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Cynthia Ozick is one of America’s literary treasures. For her sixth novel, she set herself a brilliant challenge: to retell the story of Henry James’s The Ambassadors—the work he considered his best—but as a photographic negative, that is the plot is the same, the meaning is reversed. At the core of the story is Bea Nightingale, a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to leave New York for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of her brother’s family and even, after so long, her ex-husband. Every one of them is irrevocably changed by the events of just a few months in that fateful year.

Traveling from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, facing her ex-husband and finally shaking off his lingering sneers from decades past, Bea Nightingale is a newly liberated divorcee who inadvertently wreaks havoc on the very people she tries to help.
Foreign Bodies may be Cynthia Ozick’s greatest and most virtuosic novel of all, as it transforms Henry James’s prototype into a brilliant, utterly original, new American classic.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Stands Very Well On Its Own; a Tasty Lagniappe
"Foreign Bodies" is the sixth novel by Cynthia Ozick, the highly-respected award-winning American author.With it, she has set herself an interesting challenge: to use the plot of Henry James' The Ambassadors - which he is said to have considered his best work; but to turn the plot around, giving it new meanings.And she's chosen to set the book among Jewish-Americans in the McCarthy early 1950's, the era of the loyalty oath.

Protagonist of the story is Bea Nightingale, fiftyish, divorced New York City English teacher, who has more or less put her life on hold since her divorce.She's estranged from her rich, social climbing, nasty brother Marvin, who lives in Los Angeles, California, and from her ex-husband, who lives rather near him.But she gets an urgent letter from her brother: to please go to Paris, France, and bring back his errant son Julian.She finds Julian, though rather young, married to Lili, an older refugee from Eastern Europe.This trip opens Bea's floodgates: she finds herself jetting from New York to Paris to Hollywood.She becomes more involved than she's ever been with her brother, his wife Margaret, his son, and daughter Iris, and even her ex.And unexpected things keep popping.

Ozick has here done a tour de force, producing a novel that stands very well on its own, and is, in fact, a pleasure to read. It's witty, concise, full of excellent description of very particular people and places.Paris has rarely looked better.Furthermore, I didn't find it at all heavy going, and it kept my interest.I am not familiar with the Henry James work that inspired her, so I really can't speak to the relationship between these books.Ozick is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.Her stories have won four O.Henry first prizes.You might find yourself in the mood for this tasty lagniappe; or I can think of people who'd welcome it as a gift.

4-0 out of 5 stars music, mystick, mizick, ozick
cynthia ozick is always a pleasure to read.i love the jamesian motes of bright shining stardust ms ozick sprinkles throughout the pages of Foreign Bodies ... the young man who writes about doves ... `there was a kind of innocence in it' ... a carpet that once removed leaves a figure on the floor...and my favorite: `He was someone who could hold on to a thread.He let nothing dangle, he followed through'.

a short novel that sets out to retell henry james' The Ambassadors alludes heavily to the jamesian body of work, and veers off to its own story, set in the early part of the 1950s.marvin nachtigall, wealthy, living in los angeles, badgers hisschool teacher sister in new york city, bea, surname changed to nightingale, to fly to paris to convince his son to come back to the states.reluctant bea is talked in by her niece, iris (Her hair was long, neither light nor dark - a kind of bronze.Metallic, and when she whipped it round it had, faintly, the sound of coins caught in a net.), to letting her go instead after her brother julian.once in paris iris does not want to return.

bea becomes involved as an accomplice, discovering secrets about her nephew and niece and lying to her brother, marvin.at the center of the intrigue is lili, the older woman with whom julian is living, from bucharest who lost members of her family while interned during the war.suffering and the old world follows her, neither of which marvin wants for his son.

ms ozick provides family backgrounds, including bea's brief marriage to the young promising pianist and composer, leo coopersmith, who winds up writing successful movie soundtracks in hollywood.the two of them cross paths, both of them approaching the age of 50, when marvin approaches leo for help in getting julian home.

meanwhile, mccarthyism is forcing everyone to make decisions.

5-0 out of 5 stars Chaos
Marvin Nachtigall and Beatrice Nightingale are feuding siblings.Bea had been married to Leo Coopersmith, a musician.Bea missed Marvin's son, Julian, in Paris, (she was supposed to make him return to America a la THE AMBASSADORS).

In lieu of a second attempt, she allows herself to be persuaded by her niece Iris to let Iris go in her stead.Marvin's reaction isn't as ferocious as feared.This is certainly a replay of the Henry James plot since Bea surmises that Marvin, now a Californian, fears that forces in Europe, Paris, the Old World will corrupt his son.

The use of an epistolary device gives the reader a sense of the attributes of the characters as individuals, not just types, and makes things livelier.Leo scorned Bea's life, teaching English, (and he put her there.In the beginnings she supported him.)Marvin scorns her life, too.

Iris lingers, Julian remains, and because she, Beatrice, wants to go to Paris, she negotiates with her school, devising strategies to get her classes covered.A TALE OF TWO CITIES in the syllabus is objected to.

It is possible the characters in the novel scheme, (a Jamesian tale).Wit and verve describe the author's writing.Psychology is her strong point.Portrayed is an America of loyalty oaths and the Korean War right before the election of Eisenhower.It was still the fashion for Americans to go to Paris to walk in the shoes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and to observe the French philosophers.

The puppeteer, the organizer at least up to a point, of the characters' gyrations is Beatrice Nightingale.It is her good fortune to be able to see things at a distance.This book will amuse and delight any reader.
... Read more

2. The Shawl
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 69 Pages (1990-08-29)
list price: US$11.00 -- used & new: US$4.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679729267
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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A devastating vision of the Holocaust and the unfillable emptiness it left in the lives of those who passed through it. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Writing like this is why I read.
An extraodinarily well-written story about the power of love in the face of unimaginable evil. I can't get it out of my head. Writing like this is why I read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Difficult to match
"The Shawl" is one of those Holocaust themed novels that students of the subject must read. Other stories explore the events, while "The Shawl" shows the raw nerve of the survivor. Readers might be surprised by the brevity of the story - it's not even seventy pages - but Ozick intelligently composes every paragraph for powerful effect. The story takes place in Miami Beach during the late 1970's, a time I remember quite well growing up. Ozick captures the feel of the Miami Beach few remember today: a dying oven many people chose as their place to retire and die.

The story resonates with me because my father is a Holocaust survivor who brought his family to Miami Beach. The alienation of Rosa Lublin, the protagonist is perfectly recreated. This is the kind of damage I expect to see in Holocaust survivors, but it's particularly horrible with Rosa. I will not spoil it for you, but I was amazed at how the first four pages of the story left me suddenly crying.

Not enough stories explore the alienation of the Holocaust survivor. Read "The Shawl" and you will understand something the chronologies and statistics can never describe.

5-0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, but Beautiful
Consisting of a story and a novella, THE SHAWL takes on large subjects.Three characters are central to both the story and the novella:A mother, Rosa, her niece, Stella, and her daughter, Magda.The shawl of the title figures prominently in both the story and the novella.

In the story, "The Shawl", Rosa is in her early twenties, Stella is fourteen, and Magda is a baby.They are in a concentration camp.The story is only eight pages long, but dense with emotion.If it were much longer, I think the reader might become numb.As it is, it is near perfect, if a story about something so horrifying can be said to be perfect.The story is much anthologized, including in "The Best American Short Stories of the Century" (which is a great collection of short stories if you are at all hesitant about investing solely in Ozick).For fear of spoiling it, my only further comment is that it is well worth the effort to find and read it.

In the novella, "Rosa", Rosa is an old woman living alone in Florida in a broken down "hotel" (the quotes are hers).Her social life consists primarily of writing letters to Stella (in English) and to Magda (in Polish).Her connections to the broader world are tenuous at best.

Her routine of solitude is broken one day when she takes her filthy sheets and clothes to the laundromat.There she meets Simon Persky, an old Jew who also happens to be from Warsaw.He left in 1920.Through Rosa's interaction with Persky and another old man she meets who did not experience the Holocaust, Ozick explores the attitudes of "survivors", a term Rosa finds dehumanizing, toward fellow Jews who were not there.

Persky, whether through lust, romanticism, benevolence, or boredom, spends the novella trying to entice Rosa to go on a date with him.He is an interesting character, and adds some light to an otherwise bleak novella.He has somewhat the same effect on Rosa's life.

Rosa carries horrible memories of the Holocaust, certainly, but part of what she laments is her loss of status.Due to the evils perpetrated by the Nazis, she went from somebody to nobody.First her family (a family of importance) was stripped of its privilege, then they all were stripped of their humanity.Rosa feels she has never been able to regain, in the eyes of the world, her humanness.

This theme is repeated throughout the novella.For instance, Rosa is indignant when a psychologist who writes to her refers to her as a "survivor".To Rosa, it is another category that sets her off as an outsider, a less than.Likewise, barbed wire she encounters in America is a reminder that she is less than, that others, even other Jews, consider her to be "riff raff" to be kept separate and apart.But her characterizations are not the only possible ones, as Persky reminds her.

Her tragedy, in the novella, is that she believes she cannot retrieve her past status as a full, complete human being.Who can argue?So she creates an alternate present, where she yearns for the past.She is a sympathetic character, but a frustrating one as well.I wanted her, as Persky urges, to forget a little, even though I know this probably asks too much.I want her to have her reprieve.

The story and novella are both quite moving, in different ways, and provide brilliant insight into the Holocaust and its continuing effects.I highly recommend Ozick as a writer and THE SHAWL as a book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Short but haunting Holocaust novel
"The Shawl" by Cynthia Ozick actually contains two stories. i.e. "The Shawl", and "Rosa". In "The Shawl", readers are taken into the nightmare of the Holocaust as experienced by Rosa, her infant daughter Magda, and Rosa's niece Stella. Rosa uses a shawl to hide her infant from detection and almost certain death, but this arouses Stella's resentment and leads to an act that proves tragic.

In "Rosa", the story moves forward 30 years - Rosa is now a Holocaust survivor who resides in Miami, but whose past very much haunts her present. She is still clinging on to the shawl and misses her past life - the life she had before the Holocaust. There is so much anger and pain here, that one cannot help but be emotionally affected as the reader is drawn into Rosa's anguish.

Though a short novel, Rosa's story is a compelling addition to Holocaust literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Short Novel
"Stella, cold, cold, the coldness of hell..." begins Cynthia Ozick's haunting story which takes place on a death march towards a Nazi concentration camp.

The second part of the novel is called "Rosa," which takes place in a hotel in Miami where Rosa, whose baby daughter Magda was murdered by the Nazis, lives. Here, she shows how the wounds of the past are too deep for healing though, of course, we wish it wasn't. ... Read more

3. The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories (Library of Modern Jewish Literature)
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 270 Pages (1995-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$13.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0815603517
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Short Stories Dealing with Philosophy and Jewish Theology
This collection of short stories is written by one of my favorite authors, Cythia Ozick.Her book, The Shawl, is a brilliant and beautiful novella.These short stories do not disappoint.Like her other works, many have deal with philosophy andJewish theology.They are more than just stories.They provide food for thought - - they are all works that will stay with the reader long after they are read.Some of my favorites from this collection are:

--The Pagan Rabbi
--Yiddish in America
--The Suitcase

Anyone who likes to read literature of substance and enjoys short stories will appreciate this collection.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Nice Collection
From the first and second piece in this collection, the reader thinks that Ozick is a more Americanized version of Isaac Singer.But there are surprising twists along the way.The Pagan Rabbi is about a rabbi who finds the divine (and destruction) in the worship of Nature. Envy; or Yiddish in America, is a fine elegy of a language and the perils of translation.The Suitcase, a story of an émigré painter.The Dock Witch, a modern tale of a witch who sucks the vital essence of her men.The Doctor's Wife, a curious story of a man broken by remorse and fantasy.The Butterfly and the Traffic Light, a very short allegory of transformation and its dangers.And Virility, a tale of a set during and just after the First World War, but told through the lens of a one-hundred year old narrator who lives in a utopian future.Taken individually, the stories are not unique or surprising.Ozick's endings are conventional and fail to do justice to the strength behind.But the unconventional coupling of these stories when strung together make for excellent reading.Here the collection is stronger than its building blocks.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Spiritual vs. The Mundane
These are stories that Ozick published in the late 1960's and 1971.Despite the early date of composition, one can clearly see her brilliance in her writing style.Her ability to string words together in a line, on a page, makes her one of the finest articulationists in business today.

In particular, Ozick focuses on man's relationship to the spiritual world.And also, the manner in which these two worlds interact with each other.Often people seem to forget, that men and women who have a spiritual calling are also, just men and women.In addition it is sometimes forgotten; that regular men and women, sometimes may be very spiritual.

But that too is a subject for Ozick in her book, the difference between men and women, or in particular, the manner in which the world reacts to them.She examines this in interesting detail in her story "Virility."And within her story "The Doctor's Wife" she reveals a perfectly exquisite line "... that the worthlessness of everything was just what gave everything its worth" creates a unique perspective for the reader.It is interesting to consider life as being worthless, particularly in an existential manner, but can one also see, this very existential worthlessness truly imparts worth, not only denigrates that which seems to have none.

As always, the brilliance of Ozick's compositional ability cannot be ignored.This book is recommended for all who find beauty in the written word, when portrayed with such elegance.

5-0 out of 5 stars Short Cuts
Demonstrating once more that Cynthia Ozick has an astonishing ability to capture accurately the secret desires, fears, and milieu of her characters.By turns funny, tragic, and corrosive. Worth buying for the story (or essay?) "Envy; or Yiddish in America" alone.You'll never think about Isaac Bashevis Singer the same way again. ... Read more

4. Belonging Too Well: Portraits of Identity in Cynthia Ozick's Fiction (S U N Y Series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture)
by Miriam Sivan
Paperback: 235 Pages (2010-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$21.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1438425066
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Shows how Ozick's characters attempt to mediate a complex Jewish identity, one that bridges the differences between traditional Judaism and secular American culture. ... Read more

5. Cynthia Ozick (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)
Hardcover: 188 Pages (1986-08-01)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0877547130
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6. Understanding Cynthia Ozick (Understanding Contemporary American Literature)
by Lawrence S. Friedman
Hardcover: 189 Pages (1991-09-01)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$39.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0872497720
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7. A Cynthia Ozick Reader
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 352 Pages (1996-05-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$12.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0253210534
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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"[Ozick's] range of influences is obvious in the fine selections of poems and short stories as well as essays from Art & Ardor (1983) and Metaphor and Memory (1989) that Kauvar has so sensitively chosen." -- Booklist

"[This collection reflects] the imaginative, inventive, and insightful Ozick. Some of the best of Ozick as poet, essayist, and fiction writer is represented in A Cynthia Ozick Reader." -- Library Journal

"Gathered here are some bristling, incandescent tales and thorny essays that show Ozick at her finest." -- The Seattle Times

Cynthia Ozick is among the ten most important writers in North America today. This Reader brings her manifold talents together in a sampler of the many genres she explores. The poems, stories, and essays in this collection burst with all the energy of her capacious imagination. For those who have always lauded her, the Reader offers a representative selection; those new to Cynthia Ozick's work will revel in the discovery of a major writer.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Virility!
Of course everyone will commend you to Puttermesser and Xanthippe-a novella of almost operatic drama and sadness. A Mercenary has charms because it so evokes the news in 2008 and Envy is a wicked little piece likely to have lasting appeal.
But I am urging you to buy this book for the sake of one story. It's called Virility. In it, Ozick puts aside her Judeopean, world-weary voice for the clean credulity and wholesome cynicism of a male waspy New Yorker who tells the secret story of one of America's most famous poets and some of the real truths behind the New York literary scene.
I read this back in the 70's and its sour little truth changed the way I thought about men and women in the way that no argument could have.

The other pieces are good too, but get yourself to Virility as soon as you can.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent selection
This is an excellent selection of Ozick's work . It includes what in my judgment is the finest piece of fiction that she has written the novella ,'Envy'. It also a number of her outstanding literary and historical reflections including some which touch upon her wise and insightful understanding of Jewish history. ... Read more

8. Heir to the Glimmering World
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 336 Pages (2005-09-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$5.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003YCQCFS
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Cynthia Ozick has been known for decades as one of America's most gifted and extraordinary storytellers; her remarkable new novel has established her as one of the most entertaining as well.
Set in the New York of the 1930s, Heir to the Glimmering World is a spellbinding, richly plotted novel brimming with intriguing characters. Orphaned at eighteen, with few possessions, Rose Meadows finds steady employment with the Mitwisser clan. Recently arrived from Berlin, the Mitwissers rely on the auspices of a generous benefactor, James A'Bair, the discontented heir to a fortune his father, a famous childen's author, made from a series of books called The Bear Boy. Against the vivid backdrop of a world in tumult, Rose learns the refugee family's secrets as she watches their fortunes rise and fall in Ozick's wholly engrossing novel.
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Customer Reviews (35)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Bear Boy
Cynthia Ozick's 2004 novel "Heir to the Glimmering World" is known as "The Bear Boy" in the United Kingdom. It is fitting that this complex difficult novel will take two, or perhaps more, appropriate titles."The Bear Boy" refers to one of the many principal characters in the book, James A'Bair.As a child, James had been the subject of a successful series of children's book written by his father.James inherits a fortune when his father dies. We wanders aimmlessly over the world before ultimately becoming the benefactor of the Mitwisser family at the heart of the novel. The title "Heir to the Glimmering World" is both more poetic and more difficult to explain. The heir is the young woman narrator, Rose Meadows, 19, of the story.The "glimmering world" could be one of several lost worlds described in the story: the world of the Karaites, discussed below, or the world of Germany and scholarship before WW II.

The story is set primarily in depression-era New York in 1933 -- 1935. The book is told with great allusiveness in form and content to British novels, including "Sense and Sensibility", "Middlemarch", "Jane Eyre" and "Hard Times."The early stages of Ozick's novel take place in Albany and upstate New York while the larger portion of the book is set in a relatively remote section of the Bronx. The novel tells loosely interreleated stories of refuges, outcasts, and rebels.

The narrator, Rose, is a quiet, bookish girl whose mother died when she was 3 and whose father, a teacher and a gambler, dies when Rose is 18 after he has put the girl in the care of a distant relation, Bertram, 36. Bertram is divorced, a pharmacist, and involved with radical politics.He is in love with an even more radical woman, named Ninel, who is not committed to him.Ninel essentially forces Rose out of her home with Bertram, and at age 18 Rose drops out of a teacher's college which bores her to answer a strange ad placed by a Professor Mitwisser. Mitwisser is astudent of religious history who has been forced to flee Germany.His wife, Elsa was a research physicist and the colleague of Erwin Schrodinger.The couple have five children. Elsa is despondent and appears mad.Their eldest daughter, Anneliese, runs much of the household.In Albany, Mitwisser has been teaching at a small college by the kndness of the Quakers.He is a renowned scholar of the heretical Jewish sect known as the Karaites. The governor's of the school mistake him as a student of Christian Charismatics.There is little interest in Mitwisser's passion for the Karaites in the United States.The family moves to New York City to allow Mitwiser to study and write.They are supported by the mysterious James, "The Bear Boy."

The Mitwissers have difficulty, to say the least, with their new home in America. In Germany the family was wealthy and respected for intellect and knowledge while in the United States they are spurned. There is a sense of high culture -- or "bildung"in German which the family, especially Elsa finds lacking in the United States.Professor Mitwisser wants his children and family to adopt and adjust, to learn and use English, and to drop German and German culture. The narrator Rose, too, is a refuge and an outcast of a different sort as is the wealthy, dissolute, wandering James who has somehow adopted the Mitwisser family and is their apparent benefactor.

Rose has an ambiguous role in the family as a companion to Elsa, a nanny to the children, and a scribe or "amanuensis" for Mitwisser. Although the Mitwisser family is not religious, Mitwisser is the greatest scholar of the Karaites. The Karaites are a Jewish sect originating in the early Middle Ages. The Karaites broke away from mainline traditional Judaism because they refused to accept the authority of the Jewish Oral Law --, the Mishnah and the Gemmorah which comprise the Talmud.Instead, the Karaites accepted the authority only of the 24 books of the Old Testament. Traditional Judaism rejected the Karaites as heretics and the sect became marginalized and obscure. Many of the leaders of the sect wrote voluminously and provocatively.Mitwisser, in this novel, is their scholar.As Rose comes to describe the Karaites as she learns about them from Mitwisser:

"They are dissidents; therefore they are haters.But they are also lovers, and what they love is purity, and what they hate is impurity.And what they consider to be impurity is the intellect's explorations; and yet they are themselves known for intellect." (p.73)

Professor Mitwisser loves the Karaites for their independence, their heresy, their obscurity, and their religious passion and feeling.His love, alas, is at the expense of much else in life, including his wife and children. Professor Mitwisser is pursuing threads regarding an earlier leader of the sect who, Mitwisser believes, travelled to India where he studied and became enamored of the Bhagavad-Gita. Ultimately Mitsisser's research program is dashed. Rose and Ozick in particular take a much more distanced position from the Karaites than does Mitwisser.

Elsa has a madness that derives from the wife in Jane Eyre. But she also sees certain things clearly.A physicist, she was also the lover of Schroedinger. She undergoes significant changes during the course of the book.

The book has the feel of a difficult coming of age story as Rose, who narrates the story from a distance, ulltimately uses what she has learned from living with the Mitwissers to begin her own independent life.

Ozick has written a cerebral, thoughtful story of refugees, outcasts, and the life of the mind and its limitations. There is a skeptical tone towards political messianism and radicalism, in the person of Ninel and in Bertram's early life, and towards religious freethought and heresy, as exemplified by the Karaites. The author also turns a skeptical eye towards what she sees as the thoughtless, materialist character of American life. Some of the threads of the story do not come together well, and there is a sense of coolness and detachment towards the characters. This a challenging but rewarding novel.

Robin Friedman

1-0 out of 5 stars Victim of the Tedious World
With so many positive reviews and spectacular title, I decided to give this book a chance. What a waste of my time. The characters are all so flawed that I couldn't find any sympathy or understanding for them. Nothing glimmers in this story. If it were a color it would be grey. If it were a car it would be a Ford Escort. If it were a TV show it would be cancelled.

2-0 out of 5 stars A Painfully Boring Read
Phrases like "witty," "wise," and "a rollicking story" pepper the back cover of this novel. But could such praise possibly be meant for THIS novel? THIS ONE?

My own arsenal of phrases for this book include "dark," "dull," and "uninspiringly methodical."

Rose Meadows is left without a mother at the age of three, then raised by her charlatan of a father. He manages to slough her off to a "cousin" (by marriage only, and even then only remotely) when she is still a teen, and in short order the cousin succumbs to his own selfish designs and sends her out into the world. She lands on the doorstep of the Mitwisser family, intellectual refugees from Germany - an unruly, loud, raucous, incredibly dysfunctional crew. She is hired as a...well, she doesn't really know. She is at different times a nanny for the youngest child, caretaker for the mentally distressed mother, and secretary to the head of the household, Professor Mitwisser. As live-in help, she learns the intimate history of this family and their fall from high social rank in Europe. She learns their secrets and infidelities, and becomes proficient at manuevering through their daily drama and inabilities to forgive and embrace their new American lives.

The reader's guide at the end of this novel would have you believe Rose is a "plucky teenage heroine," but as I read it, she was totally without ambition. Even when she is in possession of a small fortune, she stays stuck where she is, being mistreated and always misunderstood. Her life just HAPPENS to her. It was so frustrating! She sometimes steps outside of convention and speaks her mind, but never with convincing force, and never with any visible results. I found it impossible to respect her.

Smaller plots spin out of the main column of Rose's story, brief diversions without much appeal. Professor Mitwisser's obsessive study of the Karaites (a somewhat controversial movement within the Jewish religion)? Dense and alienating to me as a reader. The story of James, the Mitwisser's benefactor and subject of the popular (fictional) Bear Boy children's books? Slightly more interesting, I'll give it that.

There were a few "aha" moments when tendrils of the different stories met and intertwined. But nothing I found that could corraborate the book cover's declaration that this was "engaging on a pure what-will- happen next level." It seemed easy enough to guess what would happen next - more hidden wants, more miscommunication, more gloom. Always more gloom.

I thought of the strangest book association while reading this novel. It made me think of Lemony Snicket and the warning he gives at the beginning of the Unfortunate Events collection. He warns the reader that there is nothing pleasant to be found in the pages of his books - no optimism, no happiness, no heroes. I felt like this book needed a similar disclaimer.

Even at the end of the story, with a small bright arc of happiness happening for some of the characters, other characters are left in total shadow. Characters that should, by right, have been given their own chance at improvement and peace. Perhaps that is what bothered me more than the pervasive web of melancholy that runs throughout this book - the idea that, ultimately, the author settles on distributing no justice for any of her characters.

4-0 out of 5 stars Living off the legacy of Pooh
The glimmering world is one haunted by glimmering ghosts, and the characters who populate Ozick's novel--and they certainly are characters--find themselves burdened more than most folks by their dead-weight pasts. It's 1935, and Rudolf Mitwisser and his wife Elsa have fled the Nazis, leaving behind brilliant careers as, respectively, a scholar of Jewish heresy and a physicist who helped Erwin Shrodinger formulate his famous equation. Trapped in New York, bereft and bankrupt, with five children to feed, they meet an unlikely benefactor: James A'Bair, a cartoonish dandy living off the abundant royalties generated by his father's illustrated books featuring his childhood self, the Bear Boy, a legacy James detests for having robbed him of his own identity.

For the Mitwissers, the life worth living is in the past; for James, the past is something to escape. Into this bizarre blend of shattered dreams and lost childhood steps Rose Meadows, orphaned and for all practical purposes homeless, hired as an assistant to Rudolf, a nursemaid to Elsa, and a governess to the children. She has no past to speak of, just a doe-eyed crush for her handsome older cousin, whose affections are stolen by a Communist femme fatale boasting the adopted name of Ninel ("Just try spelling it backwards").

The novel is packed, both intrusively and subtly, with literary references: to Austen's Dashwood family (whose dashed fortunes "glimmered with unfamiliar familiarity" to an addled Elisa); to Jane Eyre and to Rochester's mad wife in the attic; to George Eliot's "discarded amanuensis of another century," Dorothea; to Milnes's Christopher Robbins; to Cahan's David Levinsky. Like their literary precedents, the novel's evocative scenes alternate between whimsy and melancholy: the hellionish antics of the family's three look-alike boys; Rose's often comic attempts to intuit what's expected of her; the specter of Rudolf Mitwisser sitting uselessly in the reading room of the New York Public Library, pretending to conduct research on a topic nobody in America is interested in.

Ozick excels at characters and caricatures, at scenes and episodes; what's lacking from "Heir" is cohesiveness: Christopher Robbins's gang has been sucked down Alice's rabbit hole, only to emerge scarred but "put right." The novel straddles between Victorian melodrama and Depression-era realism, between Edwardian dilettantism and a nearly Talmudic obsession with arcana and allusion, but for all its dizzying time travel and fairy-tale plotting, it leaves its readers stuck firmly in the past.

5-0 out of 5 stars For serious readers...
This book is a gem. Ms. Ozick meanders through the landscape of the displaced and dispossessed with an unflinching eye. ... Read more

9. Metaphor & Memory
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 300 Pages (1991-09-03)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.00
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Asin: 0679734252
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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From the author of The Messiah of Stockholm and Art and Ardor comes a new collection of supple, provocative, and intellectually dazzling essays. In Metaphor & Memory, Cynthia Ozick writes about Saul Bellow and Henry James, William Gaddis and Primo Levi. She observes the tug-of-war between written and spoken language and the complex relation between art's contrivances and its moral truths. She has given us an exceptional book that demonstrates the possibilities of literature even as it explores them. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding literary essays
Cynthia Ozick is one of the finest essayists writing today. In this very rich volume she writes about Cyril Connaly, William Gaddis, Italo Calvino, J.M.Coetze, Primo Levi, Saul Bellow, Henry James, Dreiser, George Steiner, Sholem Aleichem, Agnon, and Bialik. In the title essay she writes in a more theoretically than in the other essays. " Metaphor" she writes," is also a priest of interpretation; but what it interprets is memory. Metaphor is compelled to press hard on language and storytelling; it inhabits language at its most concrete.As the shocking extension of the unknown into our most intimate, most feeling, most private selves, metaphor is the enemy of abstraction. Irony is of course implicit..Think how ironic your life would be if you passed through it without the power of connection! Novels, those vessels of irony and connection, are nothing if not metaphors. The great novels transform experience into idea because it is the way of metaphor to transform memory into a principle of continuity. By " continuity" I mean nothing less than literary seriousness, which is unquestionably a branch of life- seriousness"
These essays are at once serious and rewarding, challenging and enriching.

5-0 out of 5 stars A magisterial essayist.
Avoid Cynthia Ozick if you would rather be hip than learned. If you wish to read a remarkable analysis of how we (they) came to revere the hip over the learned, turn to "The Question of Our Speech: The Return to AuralCulture," the collection's best essay.Ozick is a thinker of luminousseriousness.I reread her gratefully. ... Read more

10. Levitation: Five Fictions (Library of Modern Jewish Literature)
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 157 Pages (1995-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$3.99
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Asin: 0815603533
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite
A strange book and a bit hard to follow.The four stories about Puttermesser were a bit more intriguing than Levitation, but a very odd thread wound throughout the book.I enjoyed the character development and the story of the Golom, but overall, this book was not one of my favorites.

5-0 out of 5 stars Meet Ruth Puttermesser
This book, a collection of five stories, introduces us to Ruth Puttermesser, the overly-intellectual, overly-contemplative heroine of Cynthia Ozick's most recent novel, "The Puttermesser Papers."In the first story, Puttermesser is a down-and-out NYC lawyer hauled from firm to firm without much hope of success.When she's not working, she's daydreaming...rather, when she's not daydreaming, she's working.Puttermesser's most meaningful, most invigorating experiences occur inside her own head.She gets pep talks from a dead uncle, she creates a golem who serves as a housekeeper and campaign manager when she runs for city office.What's real, what isn't?The sentences twist and surprise; each passage is dense and filled with comic irony.

The title story, "Levitation," is about two writers, married to each other, who vow never to write about writers ("the forbidden act") or write about NYC ("the forbidden city").A wonderful irony in itself.At a cocktail party they've thrown, Jewish guests levitate in the air; everyone else remains grounded, including the main character, who, up until that point, considered herself a convert to the faith.All of these stories are stories of ideas: the characters don't chatter mindlessly; rather, they possess, unlike many other literary characters, a high degree of self-awareness.

What really shines in this book, though, is Ozick's love of L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E.You'll find no minimalism here.Like James and Nabokov, Ozick is dead-set on compressing as much detail as possible into a single sentence.The result is a narrative style of such elegance and originality, you'll be compelled to read these fictions allowed.

5-0 out of 5 stars OZICK AT HER BEST
The title story itself is worth the price of admission. This book illustrates Ozick's imaginative use of language more than perhaps any other of hers. It's to the mouth what wine is. ... Read more

11. Quarrel & Quandary: Essays
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 272 Pages (2001-11-13)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.89
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Asin: 0375724451
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Quarrel & Quandary showcases the manifold talents of one of our leading and award-winning critics and essayists.

In nineteen opulent essays, Cynthia Ozick probes Dostoevsky for insights into the Unabomber, questions the role of the public intellectual, and dares to wonder what poetry is. She roams effortlessly from Kafka to James, Styron to Stein, and, in the book's most famous essay, dissects the gaudy commercialism that has reduced Anne Frank to "usable goods." Courageous, audacious, and sublime, these essays have the courage of conviction, the probing of genius, and the durable audacity to matter.
Amazon.com Review
"True essayists," declares Cynthia Ozick, "rarely write novels." Thispronouncement would seem to overlook a horde of ambidextrous types, from John Updike toGore Vidal toCharlesBaxter to Joyce CarolOates--and, of course, Ozick herself. The author of three novels, sheis also among our finest essayists, combining a Jamesian nose for moralnuance with some of the most playful and pugnacious prose in contemporaryletters. And her fourth collection, Quarrel & Quandary, containssome of her very best work. There are ardent considerations of particularauthors, including W.G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Swedish modern GoranTunstrom. But this time around, the author is even more intent on exploringthe rhetorical minefield where art and politics overlap. Her introduction,in fact, is one long riff on the importance of being earnestlyengagé, at the end of which Ozick manages to have her cake and eatit too: "Two cheers, then--when there is no choice--for beingengagé; but three cheers and more for that other bravery, theliterary essay, and for memory's mooning and maundering, and for losingone's way in the bliss of American prose...."

In three provocative pieces ("The Rights of History and the Rights of theImagination," "The Posthumous Sublime," and "Who Owns Anne Frank?"), Ozicksuggests that the Holocaust is almost--but not quite--impervious toliterature. She's particularly angered by the morphing of Frank's diary into a mother lode ofBroadway-style uplift, a transformation that "tampers with history, withreality, with deadly truth." Elsewhere, though, Ozick is less polemical,more willing to be dazzled by Roethke's radiance or Henry James'sepistemological high beams. And it's not only specific artists but entiregenres that win her awed and eloquent approval:

When we say that poetry is strange, we mean not that it is less thanintelligible, but exactly the opposite: poetry is intelligibilityheightened, strengthened, distilled to the point of astounding us; and alsomade manifold. Metaphor is intelligibility's great imperative, its engineof radical amazement.
At its best, Ozick's prose is equally, radically amazing. She may notalways compel our agreement--the scolding she administers to W.G. Sebald,whom she clearly admires, is something of a puzzler--but her voice neverceases to register distinction and detail, emitting what she calls "the humof perpetual noticing." Five cheers, then, for Quarrel & Quandary. And by the way, might Mooning & Maundering be acandidate for the author's next alliterative title? --James Marcus ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars High seriousness at its best
Ozick is an earnest and profound writer. She shares that quality her mentor Henry James so valued,the quality of ' high seriousness'. Her essays not only reveal a discerning literary intelligence but a wise moral voice. In her essays here she like the metaphysical poets yanks together subjects from seemingly diverse worlds and makes meaning of the connection between them. The crimes of modern radical terrorists are connected to Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov's going outside and beyond the moral law- the commercial exploitation of the memory of Anne Frank connected with the general failing to properly comprehend the true meaning of the Holocaust-
Ozick is a writer who loves writers and writes about them especially well.
This is one of those books which the reader will afterwards feel a wiser person for having read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Essays?They're better than you'd think!
I admit it; I am not a reader of essays.Normally I shun them as much as I would recoil from an invite to go see a big screen remake of "Charlie's Angels."The thought of either would make me shudder.As to the former, perhaps I had my fill of Kant in college, or maybe reading "Gorgias" finally put me over some particular intellectual edge that I've yet to recover from twenty years later. Whatever the cause, I've spent very little time with pedantic or polemical prose since.So what it was that made me pick up "Quarrel and Quandary" is still beyond my ken, especially because I have never read any of Ozick's fiction. That said, it's satisfying to report that there is some life left in the old essay form yet, at least as practiced by Ms. Ozick.The Three Screens, as she calls them--TV, cinema, and computer--have not completely made moot the challenge of good writing or intricate analysis, and these Ozick patently demonstrates.You may not turn these pages at accelerated rates, hanging on every word, but you may just as easily marvel at her gifted turn of phrase, not to mention nuance of thought, as you would any plot by the latest faddish producer of pot-boilers.One thing you'll have to admit when you read this collection is that Ms. Ozick has an active mind on her shoulders, and she has the specific skill of being able to plausibly place on the page the arguments she has constructed in her head. You'll also notice that she has the uncanny ability to link diverse subjects. In a universe that is haystack filled with competing straws of information, she has a certain facility for finding one straw and sensing its relationship with another where the intimacy is by no means self-evident.It should come as no shock that her work herein just received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. So, kudos to Ms. Ozick, who entertained me in unexpected ways--and who should do the same for you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sparkling, near perfect prose
Noted essayist Cynthia Ozick begins her new, alliterative collection with a nearly heretical thought in this kinetic cyber-age: "Journalism is a necessity, but it is not a permanence. When I hear someone (seventy-plus or twenty-something) utter 'my generation,' I know I am in the vicinity of a light mind." Rest assured that should you choose to pick up Quarrel & Quandary, you will not be in the vicinity of a light mind. Rather, Ozick embarks, as all essayists must, on a journey of attempted understanding. She fiddles with Crime and Punishment in the context of the Unabomber. She wonders if the world wouldn't be better without Anne Frank's diary. She questions the rights of historical novelists and wrestles, as always, with the Holocaust. Her essays are sometimes obscure, often politically incorrect, sometimes personal and even humorous. But they are always intelligent and written in sparkling, near perfect prose. ... Read more

12. Collected Stories
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 256 Pages (2007-12-01)
-- used & new: US$4.02
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Asin: 0753822040
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13. Trust: A Novel
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 656 Pages (2004-09-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$0.01
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Asin: 0618470514
Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars
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Money and conscience are at the heart of Cynthia Ozick's masterly first novel, narrated by a nameless young woman and set in the private world of wealthy New York, the dire landscape of postwar Europe, and the mythical groves of a Shakespearean isle. Beginning in the 1930s and extending through four decades, Trust is an epic tale of the narrator's quest for her elusive father, a scandalous figure whom she has never known. In a provocative afterword, Ozick reflects on how she came to write the novel and discusses the cultural shift in the nature of literary ambition in the years since.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

2-0 out of 5 stars ponderous, bloated, and self-absorbed
I was so glad when I got to page 639 of Trust - it was finally over. I had literally slogged through the last 600 pages of one of the most ponderous narratives I can ever remember reading.Its hard to find a reason to recommend it - the characters are unlikeable, the tone is heavy-handed and pedantic, the plot holds few surprises and is otherwise subsumed by the many philosophical digressions.

Trust is a story of a sad sack of a girl (frumpy intellectual 20-something) in a dysfunctional relationship with the world, "searching" for a father she has never met.Trust is the story of her quest to find him.

Unfortunately, the quest is largely internal, and is sloooowly revealed through the interactions with 3 other (really unlikeable) main characters -- (1) her mother, Allegra, a vapid and extremely wealthy socialite (2) her stepfather, Enoch, a logician and "intellectual", and (3) her mother's first husband, William, a dour attorney who manages the "Trust".

Selfish, self-satisfied, self-righteous - all of the characters are 2-dimensional caricatures of people you hope to never get stuck with at a cocktail party.Everyone appears to really dislike the narrator for his or her own reasons, which are self-absorbed and explored exhaustively.For that matter, everyone seems to dislike everyone, which is one thing I had in common with the characters....

2-0 out of 5 stars Needs an editor
I love Cynthia Ozick's writing and although there are bursts of brilliance, I found this book largely unreadable. ... Read more

14. The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel
by Cynthia Ozick
 Paperback: 256 Pages (1998-06-30)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$5.18
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Asin: 0679777393
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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With dashing originality and in prose that sings like an entire choir of sirens, Cynthia Ozick relates the life and times of her most compelling fictional creation. Ruth Puttermesser lives in New York City. Her learning is monumental. Her love life is minimal (she prefers pouring through Plato to romping with married Morris Rappoport). And her fantasies have a disconcerting tendency to come true - with disastrous consequences for what we laughably call "reality."

Puttermesser yearns for a daughter and promptly creates one, unassisted, in the form of the first recorded female golem. Laboring in the dusty crevices of the civil service, she dreams of reforming the city - and manages to get herself elected mayor. Puttermesser contemplates the afterlife and is hurtled into it headlong, only to discover that a paradise found is also paradise lost. Overflowing with ideas, lambent with wit, The Puttermesser Papers is a tour de force by one of our most visionary novelists.

"The finest achievement of Ozick's career... It has all the buoyant integrity of a Chagall painting." -San Francisco Chronicle
"Fanciful, poignant... so intelligent, so finely expressed that, like its main character, it remains endearing, edifying, a spark of light in the gloom." -The New York Times
"A crazy delight." -The New York Time Book ReviewAmazon.com Review
Fans of Cynthia Ozick are likely already familiar with RuthPuttermesser, whose highly educated, unlucky-in-love but rathermystical existence as a Jewish woman in New York City has beenchronicled in previously published stories appearing occasionallythrough the years. The Puttermesser Papers collects the oldstories, along with several new ones, combined to create a funny andsurreal picaresque narrative, touching upon Puttermesser's job at ablueblood law firm, her creation and intellectual sparring with thegolem she makes out of soil from her flowerpots, her term as mayor ofNew York, her own death by murder, and beyond. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars fine novel
Cynthia Ozick is a remarkable writer and 'The Puttermesser Papers' is a remarkable book. Clear, crisp prose reveals a plot line that will keep you reading into the night.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
Before I begin this review, I should state that Ozick is one of my very favorite authors.She is consistently brilliant, charming (in the sense that one is literally "charmed," like in a fairy tale), with an incredible mastery of language.So I began this book with a ready willingness to be very pleased.

And pleased I was.While this book is a presented as a novel, it should be mentioned that it is really a set of long short stories tied together by the character and life of Ruth Puttermesser.Ruth is a New York lawyer, you might say she is "no nonsense," if you feel that label fits someone who creates a golem, as mayor (for a while) transforms NY City into a garden of Eden, and has various other "adventures."The reader genuinely cares for Puttermesser, and we are taken all the way through and after her death.

A story full of beauty, marvels, and the wonderment of a well drawn character.I hope every serious reader (who read for the beauty of the written word) read this book!

1-0 out of 5 stars Read something else
This book represents one of modern, unnecessary, and vague works of our time. I would never read it, if it wasn't for my class.

4-0 out of 5 stars great writing that transcends being just a story
Beautiful, poetic prose. Ozick's character, Ruth Puttermesser, reveres books and knowledge and seems to have constructed an idealized view of what life is like -- perhaps from reading so much? Although she tries to engage life at various points (and these episodes are quite entertaining in a tongue in cheek way), life and the people she invests in disappoint. Even Paradise, at the end, does not live up to expectations. I found this somewhat surrealistic work of fiction in turns entertaining and poignant, and was awed by Ozick's writing skills.

4-0 out of 5 stars A smart & witty entangled tale!
This book will delight some and frustrate others. It is a very witty, often sharply satirical novel partly pointed at modern urban life and partly a re-telling of an ancient and mystical legend of the Jewish "GOLEM."

Cynthia Ozick takes the reader into a veritable maze of myth and knowledge interwoven in a fantasy of the supernatural which spins the reader into questioning what this tale is really about.

Is itmore a modern tale of contemporary urban decay or more a redemptive fabled Jewish legend?
In turn, it is both and those parts scuffle and compete to engage the reader while pulling her/him into an uncanny den of literary allegory.

Ruth Puttermesser's life is both humorous and tragic. Puttermesser, however, doesn't dwell in self pity or regret. She handles her unlucky disappointments with wit and resignation, never sentimentality. As she repeatedly fails to achieve the happiness or the life that she aspires to....for whenever it's within her reach, it eludes her grasp, she moves on, without remorse, to other pastures.

In the end,Ruth Puttermesser has 'lost her edge' and in her solitude of old-fashioned ways, become that "butter knife" who cannot ultimately carve out a safe passage in a big and often violent city.

An imaginative, complex and rewarding journey into some impossible ideals and fantasy landscapes that come alive to enhance this smart and witty entangled tale. ... Read more

15. Cynthia Ozick (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
by Joseph Lowin
 Hardcover: 188 Pages (1988-12)
list price: US$33.00
Isbn: 0805775269
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16. Dictation: A Quartet
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 160 Pages (2009-04-14)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$0.69
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Asin: 0547237871
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Ozick’s latest work of fiction brings together four long stories, including the novella-length "Dictation," that showcase this incomparable writer’s sly humor and piercing insight into the human heart. Each starts in the comic mode, with heroes who suffer from willful self-deceit. From self-deception, these not-so-innocents proceed to deceive others, who don’t take it lightly. Revenge is the consequence—and for the reader, a delicious if dark recognition of emotional truth.

The glorious novella "Dictation" imagines a fateful meeting between the secretaries to Henry James and Joseph Conrad at the peak of those authors’ fame. Timid Miss Hallowes, who types for Conrad, comes under the influence of James’s Miss Bosanquet, high-spirited, flirtatious, and scheming. In a masterstroke of genius, Ozick hatches a plot between them to insert themselves into posterity.

Ozick is at her most devious, delightful best in these four works, illuminating the ease with which comedy can glide into calamity.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Like Water ...
How refreshing to read something written by someone with such a facility with language! The stories were wonderful. Highly recommended to me by my cousin -- and he was absolutely right!

5-0 out of 5 stars Thank you, Ms. Ozick, for another stunning book
It's incredible!Every time a new book of Ozick's is published, I give thanks to the Muses for having provided her the necessary inspiration.As usual, her sentences are gorgeous and lyrical; the characters are funny and utterly compelling.

"Dictation" is the only story contained that has not been previously published.It begins with the master Henry James and an emerging Joseph Conrad.Her characterizations of each man, as well as of Conrad's wife, are hilarious.Soon, however, the story shifts to the writers' amanuenses.For fear of ruining any of the story's surprises - there are many! - I will only say that the story may motivate you to go out and re-read, or read for the first time, certain stories by James and Conrad.(Though of course that may be a foolish enterprise, considering the story's "punch line.")

Familiar themes of morality and art are present, but Ozick explores them in a way I didn't expect.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of contemporary literature. ... Read more

17. Fame & Folly: Essays
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 304 Pages (1997-05-27)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.95
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Asin: 0679767541
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Why do so many brilliant writers turn out to be anything but brilliant in their personal conduct? From Henry James to Salman Rushdie, from Anthony Tollope to Mark Twain, author Cynthia Ozick looks at our literary idols and reveals not feet of clay, but flawed and beating hearts, and in so doing inspires us to a fresh admiration of their achievements.Amazon.com Review
In this collection of essays, fiction writer and criticCynthia Ozick has chosen to take on an important topic for allwriters: how the lives and works of authors fit in with the times. Itis a task she manages with more than a healthy helping of wryness. AsOzick describes it, the subject of this collection is "famousliterary figures in our famously rotten century who have beenassociated with one sort of folly or another." With that in mind,she offers a wide-ranging set of essays on Isaac Babel; H. G. Wells andHenry James;AnthonyTrollope; the American Academy of Arts and Letters' early-centurydisdain for modernism; and more. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Typically Excellent
I read most of Inna's superb output on the Internet.
If you are not familiar with her writings, do yourself a favor,
buy her book.

Yuval Zaliouk

5-0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Essays
These essays are part autobiographical, part literary review, part reflection on the 20th century as a whole.The clearest example of the merging of these themes occurs in "Rushdie in the Louvre".Here we find Salman Rushdie who to Cynthia Ozick "has become, in his own person, a little Israel'; and defending whom "nowadays... places one among the stereotypes and the `Orientalists'".Here we see a man whose "right to exist is mired in the politics of anti-colonialism-and never mind the irony of this, given Rushdie's origins as a Muslim born in India."And here too we see Rushdie's work; his literary genius.But these themes (so concentrated in this one essay) are scattered throughout the rest of the book as well.

In this volume we find a touching portrait of Alfred Chester-a writer who might have been great; the first writer of her own generation Ozick meets; the man who (in many ways) gives her a hand up the ladder, even as he begins his own descent into death.Here we find the warning to our generation because we are too ready to celebrate the Now at the expense of history and culture (a warning that follows on the heels of a smile-inducing history of the Temple's fight against Modernity).

And then there are some frankly personal essays."Helping T.S. Eliot Write Better" will make any editor cringe; "Of Christian Heroism" is as much a personal rumination on human nature as it is an ode to Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

But no essay in this volume is impersonal.There are some themes that run through them, of course: anti-totalitarianism, anti-racism, anti-sameness, an abiding admiration for Western culture and literature and an even greater one for the creative spirit. But the author of these essays is ever present.

In "Isaac Babel and the Identity Question", Cynthia Ozick decries the lack of "a valid biography of Babel."In this volume of essays, she has (I think) begun to write her own.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great moral intelligence and literary passion
Ozick is a writer of great moral intelligence and literary passion. Because I love to read about writers, and the relation between their work and their life her essays always provide a special kind of enjoyment for me. Ozick is also tremendously knowledgeable and one in reading the essays learns a great deal about the writers in question. She also has an acute historical sense. Her writing about Eliot and his influence on the literary culture especially of the whole university world of the post- war period rings so true. She has a subtletly in seeing the complex realities of someone like Eliot. One might be a little wearied by her lengthy study of a friend and fellow student of literature, Alfred Chester but nonetheless this too is a kind of instruction in Reality. She is a storyteller also, and therefore her essays have a quality which makes them move along in a definite direction.
A first- rate collection for anyone for whom the literary essay is dear.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great writing and thinking
At her best I think Cynthia Ozick is second only to James Wood as a writer of literary appreciations. In this volume, for example, she has written a lengthy defence of T. S. Eliot that does not shun his anti-semitism and his rough treatment of his first wife, and a long piece about Henry James's proto-Modernist novel, 'The Awkward Age', that are as good as any essays written about these two writers.

Ozick is also a skilled and affecting memoirist, one who wins this reader's affection by tackling the great subject of the self without ever being noxiously self-centered. 'Alfred Chester's Wig', an essay that provides a very moving portrait of a tortured soul and a perceptive look at the fifties literary and social scene, is as good a 'literary essay' (as opposed to just an essay about literature) as you are likely to read.

There are, however, some occasions where Ozick's high-style takes control and she appears to be writing simply on auto-pilot. 'Of Christian Heroism', for example, makes the point that people are fundamentally and in the main self-interested rather than good or bad and that this makes those who harboured and assisted the Jews through the persecutions of the thirties and forties exemplars rather than oridnary specimens of goodness. I think that this position is entirely defensible, even commonsensical. Yet she comes to this conclusion so messily and with so many empty rhetorical flourishes and redundancies, showing off rather than working through the counter-arguments, that she destabilizes her whole argument.

That caveat aside, however, this collection should be required reading for anyone interested in the fate of literary culture. Cynthia Ozick is one of the few modern writers who is adding to our store of literary wealth and safeguarding what has come down to us.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ozick is not a politician
That's right: Cynthia Ozick is not a politician: she is a writer. She does not write for a weak politically-minded mainstream; she writes for those who enjoy reading and appreciate scholarship. And from glancnig at one customer review, it's obvious what a hiatus exists between these two groups!

It is extremely frustrating that someone would dismiss Ozick as "mildly-talented" because of her refusal to compromise her artistic integrity. Ozick does not care about "hanging out" with the popular kids, nor does she toss out her Jewish heritage in light of its being "not completely feminist."

In these essays, as well as in her fiction, Ozick sets high standards for male and female writers alike. Her writing is Modern in its style, Classical in its sensibility. And never dull or uninspired. ... Read more

18. The Messiah of Stockholm
by Cynthia Ozick
Paperback: 160 Pages (1988-02-12)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$8.38
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0394756940
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A small group of Jews weave a web of intrigue and fantasy around a book reviewer's contention that he is the son of Borus Schultz, the legendary Polish writer killed by the Nazis before his magnum opus, THE MESSIAH, could be brought to light. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

4-0 out of 5 stars Complete Freedom to Create a Mythical Past
This is a very literary book about a man, orphaned at birth, and faced with the existential angst of being totally free to create a mythical past.He becomes obsessed with the fact/myth that he is the son of an obscure Polish writer who was murdered by the Nazis. He searches for his mythical father's lost manuscript.

This book deals with deep philosophical questions and inquiries about truth vs. falsehood and reality vs. dreams.

4-0 out of 5 stars A not gripping work by a master writer
I have read many works of Cynthia Ozick and highly esteem her writing. This work which comes highly touted by both Michiko Kakutani and Harold Bloom in NY Times Reviews I just could not get into. The beginning idea of having the main character a refugee who believes his father is Bruno Schultz never really got me. The character himself Lars Andemining a mediocre book- reviewer twice- married twice divorced father of one small girl makes the obsession with Schultz the center of his life. Somehow the characters he meets including the book- store owner Mrs. Ekland and the woman who claims to be Schultz's daughter, and shows up with an alleged manuscript of Schultz's lost masterpiece " The Messiah" are not fleshed out in a strong way.
Many readers havespoken about the pleasure of reading of Ozick's complex language.
Again I just could not get into the work, feel, sympathize, identity in any way with the characters.
It may just be my fault that I was not such a good reader on this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Is Conformance The Key To Success?
Ozick creates a wonderful piece of literature here.She writes a work of terrific narration, with extraordinary language as is her specialty, yet it has a very different feel to it than most of her work.It has a spiritual feel, where she does not give us the same level of clarity and conciseness of description.Instead, she rather allows events to unfold almost by chance.The style is reminiscent of that of Philip Roth and in fact, it was interesting to find on the dedication page the simple words, "To Philip Roth."

Ozick's protagonist, Lars, is a book reviewer for a Stockholm newspaper.He has a penchant for old European literature, particularly Czech, Polish and Serbo-Croatian authors.He lives in a spiritual world of existentialism and extremis of the human condition.Yet, the obsession if you will, is much more, because Lars, an orphan, has decided or convinced himself that he is the son of a famous and dead Polish author.

The plot and concepts swirl around the reader as Lars seeks to find a lost manuscript and any other information that he can about the author.Lars is a creature of the night.He does not like the hustle and bustle of the office during daytime hours.He is a completely private person, and keeps his secret very close to his vest, except for his disclosure to the proprietor of a small but esoteric book shop.With her, he tells all.And she is fully drawn into it.At least, that is what it clearly seems to Lars.

But Lars is too personally caught up in his own thing to really detect the deceit.Lars is blinded by a vision of what he believes is his own father's eye, which comes to him in dreams.So he continues to work with the lady at the bookstore to get all that he can about his `father.'Until, one day a person shows up, with the lost manuscript, claiming to be the daughter of the famous Polish author.At some point in that occurrence, Lars realizes, his confidence has been preyed on by others.

Lars' reviews do not carry a lot of stock with the public.The old and gone literature that he tries constantly to "resurrect" is of little interest to the Stockholm public.Yet Lars is fixated on all that is written around and about the time of his father's existence.In the end, Lars finds prominence and success, by giving up his obsession and writing well received reviews of current Swedish and American authors.All of a sudden he has his own cubicle.Then Lars gets a newspaper column on Tuesday as well as Monday.And finally, he has totally conformed to the daytime world of the wild "stewpot" that constitutes the daylight work world.But still, Lars is left with the questions of his past.These are never fully resolved.

The book is recommended to all lovers of great current literature.The writing is phenomenal.And the story is highly interesting and engaging.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing
Ozick's sentences are so wonderfully crafted that I feel like I am in the Louvre of writing when I read her.This is just the second book by her that I have read and I am just delighted.It is true, as one reviewer stated, that she maintains a certain distance from her characters, but that allows them to be less predictable, and a greater level of irony can also then by limned.This small novel about an alienated, sad "Monday reviewer" of books in Stockholm, orphaned, who believes he is the son of a murdered Jewish Pole who wrote surrealistic material is a lovely (but sad) story of self definition, inspiration, success/failure, trust.I recommend it strongly to anyone who loves good writing.

3-0 out of 5 stars Promising but in the end unfulfilling
While I can appreciate, from a distance, the aspects of this book others could use to cite it as a great piece of writing, I found myself frustrated by the narrative balance that Ozick used to tell its story.I didn't feel like there was any spot where i could truly jump into the text and hold on.The characters outside of the main character were all very apathetic and one-dimensional, and i felt like the actions Lars (the main character) took towards them, and which were supposedly the driving points of the novel, were not satisfying emotionally due to the simple fact that I had no place from which to appreciate them.For a 140 page book, i think it was a task Ozick shouldn't have sought out to take by striving to cram so many esoteric and subjective aspects of text at the expense of character or plot development.A dissapointing and unsatisfying read. ... Read more

19. Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism
Paperback: 720 Pages (2004-05-11)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.22
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812972031
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Something has changed.

After the horrors of World War II, people everywhere believed that it could never happen again, but today the evidence is unmistakable that anti-Semitism is dramatically on the rise once more. The torching of European synagogues, suicide terror in Israel, the relentless comparison of the Israelis to Nazis, the paranoid post–September 11 Internet-bred conspiracy theories, the Holocaust-denial literature spreading throughout the Arab world, the calumny and violence erupting on American college campuses: Suddenly, a new anti-Semitism has become widespread, even acceptable to some.

In this chilling and important new book, Ron Rosenbaum, author of the highly praised Explaining Hitler, brings together a collection of powerful essays about the origin and nature of the new anti-Semitism. Paul Berman, Marie Brenner, David Brooks, Harold Evans, Todd Gitlin, Jeffrey Goldberg, Bernard Lewis, David Mamet, Amos Oz, Cynthia Ozick, Frank Rich, Jonathan Rosen, Edward Said, Judith Shulevitz, Lawrence Summers, Jeffrey Toobin, and Robert Wistrich are among the distinguished writers and intellectuals who grapple with painful questions: Why now? What is—or isn’t—new? Is a second Holocaust possible, this time in the Middle East? How does anti-Semitism differ from anti-Zionism?

These are issues too dangerous to ignore, too pressing to deny. Those Who Forget the Past is an essential volume for understanding the new bigotry of the twenty-first century. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

1-0 out of 5 stars STOP mis-using the "antisemetism" labels
criticism of Israel is it anti-Semitism?
For example, I am a palestinian who lost his home, which was given to three jewish families came from Morocco, by force, and hence I am very critical of israel. Does that make me anti-semetic?
I think you need to re-examine your assessment. Israel was not established on an empty land. There were cities, and thriving villages. Golada Maer statement : " land without peope to people without land" does not change the facts. For those who want to stay blind and live with the "victim" , and "we are better than them no matter what we do" mentalities would find confort is such "world of illusion".

1-0 out of 5 stars More Defense of the Indefensible
I have yet to see a honest approach to this complex subject that does other than portray the Jews as victims.There is never any acknolwedgement that all people and, yes, all races/cultures, at time do very bad things to each other.Except for the Jews.With them it is always someone else's fault. Even now, as they do their best to destroy the Palestinians, after invading their homes, stealing their dignity and turning Gaza into another Warsaw Ghetto, they refuse to admit that what they are doing is wrong.And let's not forget that the Arabs are also semites, when we go throwing that "anti-semite" ajective around.There are Jews who recognize and speak out on this problem, such as Norman Finklestein and Gore Vidal.And there are, thankfully, Jewish run organizations in Israel who are fighting for the human rights of the Palestinians, realizing that it is the ongoing mistreatment of others, the continuing claim that Israel is above reproach, that is creating a negative image of Israel - they are doing this to themselves.They are their own worst enemy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superbly balanced timely collection of voices
With so many studies of anti-Semitism available, the choice of an overview of the central issues is daunting.This book, in my opinion, is a better place to start than historical exegeses that methodically unpick the past hisotry of slurs. Its focus on contemporary commentary by contempoary commentators is its greatest strength.Many non-Jews accept that anti-Semitism existed historically but have great difficulty recognising its current expressions.Conventional liberal wisdom holds that anti-Semitism has gone away; it is a spent force not worth bothering with, except by a few insignificant lumpen elements with no media credibility. Did I slip in the last phrase deliberately? I sure did. It is the media credibility of the new expressions of anti-Semitism that are most alarming. These geenrally take the form of castigations of Israeli military actions extending to Israeli govenment policies, and shading into 'critiques' of Israel as a country, a society, and a nation. Every democracy has to accept scrutiny of its political and security actions.But when criticism moves beyond the political and is genercially directed at a whole society, where no acknowlegement is made of ongoing debates between citizens and government policies, then there is just cause to complain that dark prejudices are at work.This book does a marvellous job of bringing many of these hidden influences to the surface for analysis.Perhaps the most telling line in the text is the concern expressed by the majority of commentators that critics of Israel obsess about its shortcomings while selectively ignoring the brutal human rights abuses taking place in all the countries surrounding it.If you were of the opinion that criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism are decouplable politically, this book may ask you the re-examine that assumption.

5-0 out of 5 stars The spreading mental virus
It never went away. It was hiding in the West, but in the Arab World it has been very prevalent and open throughout the last few decades. The evidence of its resurgence includes the terror onslaught on Israeli civilians, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, the twisted habit of some media to equate Israel with Hitler's Germany and Zionism with Nazism, the lunatic conspiracy theories in best-selling books and on the internet, the torching of synagogues in Europe, the rise in attacks on European Jews, the filthy propaganda in the Arab media and the recent pronouncements of the president of Iran.

This valuable collection of essays explores the history and current state of the oldest hatred from different perspectives. A wide range of opinions from across the political spectrum is represented here, including those of Melanie Phillips, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Martin Peretz, Bernard Lewis, Paul Berman, Nat Hentoff, Todd Gitlin, Amos Oz, David Brooks and Robert Wistrich. Those essays that impress the least or come across as insincere or unconvincing are by Judith Butler, Edward Said and Tariq Ramadan.

The essays address a range of topics including the differences and similarities between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, old and new manifestations of Anti-Semitism, the situation in various European countries and in the Arab World. In Europe, this plague is found amongst the mainly Leftist cultural and government elites and the non-integrated immigrant populations whilst in the Arab sphere it is openly promoted and disseminated in the media and the mosques. Even in the USA, the snake is rearing its head amongst leftwing academics on campus.

The most vivid and shocking descriptions of the madness appear in Jeffrey Goldberg's essay on Egypt just after 9/11, Marie Brenner's piece on the situation in France, Fiamma Nirenstein's history of how the Left turned against Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and Ruth Wisse's frightening comparison between now and the 1930s. She points out how the New York Times ignored the Holocaust then and how the same Old Grey Harlot prefers to blame Israel for every act of Islamic extremism. It is ironic in that the aim of the new Anti-Semitism is the delegitimization and ultimate destruction of the Jewish state.

One of the best descriptions of the new manifestation is by Harold Evans, who makes a lucid distinction between valid criticism of Israel and the frenzied and pathological condemnation of this brave little country by those who ignore atrocities and oppression everywhere else in the world. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has called this resurgent Medusa of Jew-hatred "the worldwide moronic convergence" and its three heads are the Left, the lunatic Right and fanatical Islamism. The political spectrum is not linear, but a circle where extreme Left and Right meet.

The book opens with an illuminating introduction by Ron Rosenbaum and concludes with an afterword by Cynthia Ozick in which she observes that the new Anti-Semitism proceeds in the guise of Anti-Zionism and through the abuse of the language of human rights. And it goes hand in hand with Anti-Americanism. I also recommend Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America by Andrei Markovits, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It by Phyllis Chesler, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz and The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion by Bernard Harrison, for a better understanding of these perilous times.

5-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant collection of articles
This book deals with hatred of Israel and many of the reactions to it.It consists of about 50 separate essays.One of the inspirations for the book was Philip Roth's novel, "Operation Shylock," and the relevant excerpt from this book is included as one of the essays.That essay explains the threat of Israel becoming a sort of extermination camp for Jews, with nuclear weapons rather than Zyklon B being the relevant weapon.

The book, which begins with an excellent introduction by Ron Rosenbaum, is a superb collection of ideas and thoughts.One of the essays that impressed me the most was by Tom Gross, describing the ghastly reporting by the British media of the events in Jenin in April, 2002. Until I read this article, I just couldn't believe that the folks at the Guardian would abandon all journalistic standards just to hurt a few Jews by spouting some absurd lies about Israel.After all, no matter what they thought about Jews or Israel, these people were professionals who I thought were unlikely to wish to destroy the good reputation the Guardian had so carefully built up.Such destruction would cost them money! But this article showed me that they had indeed turned the Guardian into something far less valuable than it had been in the past (perhaps thinking that such an approach would appear more sensational and improve their sales).

I also especially enjoyed the articles by Paul Berman, Robert Wistrich, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Ruth Wisse, Melanie Phillips, Joshua Muravchik, Martin Peretz, Cynthia Ozick, Fiamma Nirenstein, and Bernard Lewis.And of course, I had to read the essay by Daniel Gordis that started "Dear Jill."No, it wasn't to me, it was to Jill Jacobs.But it was a scary look into the politics of a graduating rabbinical student.

There are articles by various opponents of Zionism, including Tariq Ramadan, Edward Said, and Judith Butler. I think it was a good idea to allow the reader to see a little of how they view the world.

I certainly recommend this book. ... Read more

20. The Uncompromising Fictions of Cynthia Ozick (Literary Frontiers Edition)
by Sanford Pinsker
 Paperback: 128 Pages (1987-08)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$17.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0826206352
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