Dictation: A Quartet Hardcover – Mar 18 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A carefully honed, sharply intelligent new collection of four stories shows Ozick (The Heir to the Glimmering World) at the height of her stylistic powers. The title story, by far the strongest tale, follows the female secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, both of whom take dictation from the two egoist titans. When the authors meet in London, their two amanuenses collude to make their own mark on their masters' work; in so doing, they exalt, with an undeniably sexual glee, that they will thus attain immortality. Actors looks on wryly as TV character actor Matt Sorley, né Mose Sadacca and nearing 60, reluctantly takes a role that will either cap his career or defeat him. At Fumicaro follows an American Catholic literary critic in Mussolini's Italy as he falls head over heels in love with a pregnant 16-year-old peasant girl: She was more hospitable to God than anyone who hoped to find God in books. The exuberant What Happened to the Baby? follows a young college student and her eccentric Esperanto-spouting uncle to his mid-20th-century meetings of the League for a Unified Humanity. Ozick's stories ingeniously put scholarship in the service of human flowerings. (Apr.)
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"These novellas are prime examples of Ozick’s rigorous writing style, her propensity for recognizing the element of ridiculousness in human tragedy, and her second-nature sympathy for eccentric characters." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"A carefully honed, sharply intelligent new collection of four stories shows Ozick at the height of her stylistic powers...Ozick's stories ingeniously put scholarship in the service of human flowerings." Publishers Weekly
"Ozick is at the top of her form in these splendid stories, and every library will want a copy. Highly recommended." Library Journal Starred
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"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.