Ozick, novelist, essayist, and literary critic, doesn’t like ‘lay’ book reviewers, such as write reviews for Amazon, Library Thing, and book blogs, so it’s highly ironic that I, one of the unlettered masses, am reviewing her book. Not that I consider myself a literary critic; I haven’t the education. I do not (usually) read to pick out the symbolism or themes; once in a while those things throw themselves in my face. But citizen reviewers and literary critics are two different things and serve different purposes. Literary criticism is for those who wish to go deep into books and dissect them finely. Reviews are for people looking for something interesting to read. We can coexist, our realms never really touching. At any rate, that is the essay that opens the book, like a blast over the bow.
The rest of the pieces are essays on various authors from the past and present, subjects such as how the terms ‘Kafkaesque’ and ‘Orwellian’ have become degraded, and why we need true critics to preserve literary fiction. It’s really rather brilliantly written and interesting, even for someone without any college classes in literature. One essay is about some Americans who wrote in Hebrew- they weren’t affiliated in any way, they just happened to do it during the same period of time. I’d never heard of them, and will almost certainly never read them even if I could find translations, but it’s fascinating to know about them. Ozick positions Harold Bloom as the pinnacle of literary criticism; I probably agree, even though I feel that he looks down on the common reader.
The writing itself is actually fun to read; I loved her complicated sentences and her broad vocabulary. She is not going to write down in quest of a wider audience. I suspect this book may become a text for some literature classes down the road.
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