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the Complete Review

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Cynthia Ozick
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Cynthia OZICK
Nationality: USA
Born: 17 April, 1928
Awards: National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1968)
American Academy of Arts Award for Literature (1973)
Guggenheim fellowship (1982)

  • B.A., New York University (1949)
  • M.A., Ohio State University (1950)

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Cynthia Ozick:

  • "Cynthia Ozick is a kind of narrative hypnotist. Her range is extraordinary; there is seemingly nothing she cannot do." - Johanna Kaplan, The New York Times Book Review (13/6/1971)

  • "A story by Cynthia Ozick sticks its neck out and then bites its clavicle or -- giggling -- cuts its throat. She seems to want to punish herself for her own acts of magic." - John Leonard, The New York Times (28/1/1982)

  • "She is terribly smart, to the point where it is just a little dehumanizing. Each time you think you have understood her, after considerable labor, she refines her analysis once again, climbing one more rung on her ladder to some ultimate perspective. One wonders, if she were to have her way, whether fiction could survive her demands, whether she might not intimidate it out of existence." - Anatole Broyard, The New York Times (27/4/1983)

  • "Precisely on account of her style, Miss Ozick strikes me as the best American writer to have emerged in recent years. Her artistic strength derives from her moral energy, for Miss Ozick is not an esthete. Judaism has given to her what Catholicism gave to Flannery O'Connor - authority, penetration and indignation." - Edmund White, The New York Times Book Review (11/9/1983)

  • "As an essayist, Cynthia Ozick is a very good storyteller. Her arguments are plots more than carefully reasoned proofs. They twist and turn, digress, slow down and speed up, surprise with sudden illuminations, and only occasionally end predictably. The author's voice and personality pursue the reader with selective autobiographical insistence." - Robert Kiely, The New York Times Book Review (23/4/1989)

  • "One thing Cynthia Ozick's characters do well is to evoke in the reader an instructive mix of sympathy and irritation. (...) Her characters push against our limits of patience and compassion, and it makes us feel somehow larger to care about these lives, up to and beyond the point of seeing some of ourselves in them." - Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review (10/9/1989)

  • "Ms. Ozick may be the last person around to believe that writers are, or ought to be, on the side of the angels, that they constitute an elect of some sort. But then nobody can get a hold of a message and ride with it quite as she can." - Dan Hofstadter, Wall Street Journal (22/5/1996)

  • "While arguing the issue of the fundamental assumptions governing Western literature, which Ozick challenges and calls into question, none of these critical works engages Ozick's power as a wordsmith and maker of meaning. That is, while Ozick is a difficult writer, she is also one who astounds by her daring. Despite its cultural and literary pyrotechnics, her writing is accessible to a very wide audience because, like the artists of the circus, its acrobatic daring entrances us as it challenges the standard rules that bind the less gifted, less trained to the pedestrian reign of gravity." - Murray Baumgarten, Contemporary Literature (Summer/1996)

  • "Parading her erudition like a peacock, the owner of a self-conscious style, Cynthia Ozick is a writer's writer, a kind of unembittered George Steiner with a feminist twist. Her intellect is conducive to flashes of brilliance. Words are used sparingly, yet they are chosen for everyone to admire. But their splendour can also get in her way, obstructing the plot, making it morose, dispensable." - Ilan Stavans, Times Literary Supplement (16/7/1999)

  • "She is as authentic a voice of New York as was Edith Wharton before her, but Ozick's New York is an affair of battered suburbs, of cavernous municipal buildings, of ancient Hebrew teachers living above Cuban grocery stores, of public libraries, wily lovers and miraculous if inconvenient apparitions." - Anita Brookner, The Spectator (19/6/1999)

  • "As acute a commentator as she is, as clear a thinker and as resourceful as she is in grounding her ideas, Ozick as essayist remains an adjunct to Ozick as a fiction writer. The heart of the essay, as Ozick herself points out repeatedly, is the ramble, and Ozick isn't really a rambler at heart. She's an expounder, an organizer of ideas with a fiction writer's gift for assembling the particulars that will irradiate her theme." - Carey Harrison, San Francisco Chronicle (17/9/2000)

  • "Even when you disagree with her, she electrifies your mind." - Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times (20/9/2000)

  • "Cynthia Ozick is, for my money, the most accomplished and graceful literary stylist of our time." - John Sutherland, The New York Times Book Review (8/10/2000)

  • "There is a deep logic to Ozick's intellectual wanderings that lifts her books from whimsy to wonder." - Annabel Lyon, The Globe and Mail (4/9/2004)

  • "She is a writer innately drawn to paradox, and to the moral questions inherent in the relationships between richness and poverty, mind and body, history and imagination. She also deals repeatedly with the dynamic not just between Jew and diaspora but between being a writer and being a Jew." - Ali Smith, The Guardian (5/3/2005)

  • "There is a lot to be said for her uncompromising and eccentric fiction. But -- with the exception of The Bear Boy, something of a departure Ė- it certainly requires study, patience and ambition." - Theo Tait, London Review of Books (19/5/2005)

  • "Ozick is our arch defender of the independent rights and powers of literature, and of the novel in particular. She is old school; her views are clear and her tone brooks no opposition." - Sven Birkerts, The Los Angeles Times (28/5/2006)

  • "Ozick is the most high-browed of all the Jewish-American writers, completely lacking well-read Saul Bellow's interest in the demimonde and the low-life. And yet her prose is always alive and crackling, flashy and sensuous, and as distinctive as the markings on a hoopoe." - Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement (3/11/2006)

  • "Ozick is in some ways so good, so intelligent and flexible and imaginative, that in reading her I find myself always asking why I donít like her work as much as I respect it. (...) She is a moralist, not a dramatist, who at moments seems determined to give her people the back of her hand. Sometimes I even imagine her as the coach of a bad team, shrugging her shoulders and saying, "Look what poor material I have to work with, players like these." So one reads with a sense of indifference, involved in the brilliant carapaces of her sentences but only rarely in the story as a whole; indeed, one reads without any investment in what happens next. Or no: an intellectual investment only. (...) If Ozick is a specialized taste, thatís because her very strengths present a challenge to our conventions of taste itself." - Michael Gorra, Bookforum (4-5/2008)

  • "Cynthia Ozick is double-barreled. She's an inventive and revelatory fiction writer and an exacting, battle-ready critic; an impish writer of conscience and a creative intellectual." - Donna Seaman, The Los Angeles Times (27/4/2008)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Profound intellect
  • Dazzling imagination
  • Writing is precise, clever, often witty
  • Ozick always seems in complete command

    Cons:
  • Jewish focus, preoccupation, and references
  • Sometimes too stern
  • Sometimes too sweeping in her judgements
  • Focus on and fascination with idolatry

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the complete review's Opinion

     Cynthia Ozick is a brilliant writer. Her writing sparkles, glows, resonates. She tells good stories, and she tells them spectacularly well. Chiselling them down to their bare bones (at least after the initial effort of Trust) the stories and novels are wonders of precision. She has a marvelous command of the language, and she does wondrous things with it.
     Ozick's writing is also profound. She ponders the larger questions -- specifically about the nature, purpose, and possibility of art, as well as questions of morality (and that old favourite, idolatry) -- and does so without alienating the reader.
     Her New York-Jewish background also marks much of her writing. In many instances the writing transcends this -- most notably in The Puttermesser Papers -- but for those not familiar with this tradition aspects of the writing may be baffling. In a sense, much of Ozick's writing is provincial, which can be problematic for those not from the same provinces. The religious focus is also not to everyone's taste, but Ozick's arguments and expression are thoughtful and refined and generally fascinating to follow, regardless of the subject.
     Ozick is also an excellent essayist, though occasionally too strident in her arguments, offering sweeping judgements without adequate explanations. Her essays in support of subjects tend to be greater successes than those in which she expresses a negative opinion (despite the pleasure to be had in seeing her cut someone down to size with her razor-sharp comments). She is knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects -- and especially about literature -- and her essays are pleasure to be read for their style as much as their arguments.
     Without question, Cynthia Ozick is one of the major living American writers.

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Links

Cynthia Ozick: Cynthia Ozick 's Books at the complete review: See also:
  • Index of other Author Pages at the complete review
  • Index of Contemporary American fiction at the complete review

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