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.