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Dictation: A Quartet


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About the Author

Author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, CYNTHIA OZICK is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her writing has appeared in The New Republic, Harper's, and elsewhere. She lives in New York.


In her elegant new collection, Ozick (Heir to the Glimmering World) examines with characteristic humor the passions that motivate the human heart and the human foibles that often lead to self-deception and misery. In the wonderfully witty and biting opening novella, "Dictation," Miss Bosanquet and Miss Hallowes, the respective amanuenses of Henry James and Jospeh Conrad at the height of their careers, concoct a marvelous scheme to write themselves into posterity. This novella alone is worth the price of the book for its detailed portrayals of characters and its careful construction of story. "Actors" follows the fortunes of Matt Sorley as he searches for work in New York and eventually is tapped to play Lear in an adaptation of the play that features Lear as a Jewish emigrant. Sorley's production is interrupted by a real Lear-an elderly and quite mad Jewish actor who had performed this role originally many years ago. In "At Fumicaro," an art critic attempts to marry his Italian maid only to realize that she has strung him along to rob him. Finally, in "What Happened to the Baby?" a young girl rehearses the story of her uncle's infidelity and her aunt's Medea-like revenge. Ozick is at the top of her form in these splendid stories, and every library will want a copy. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/07.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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, ne 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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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