cover image Quarrel & Quandary

Quarrel & Quandary

Cynthia Ozick. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-375-41061-1

H Novelist and literary critic Ozick (The Puttermesser Papers; Metaphor and Memory; etc.) again proves herself to be a daunting intellectual who writes with both grace and conviction. This collection of 19 previously published essays (in venues like the New Republic and Commentary) highlights the reasons for her status as one of America's leading literary figures. In ""Dostoyevsky's Unabomber"" she demonstrates her ability to uncover similarities across wide contextual gulfs by likening Theodore Kaczynski, ""a calculating social reasoner and messianic utopian,"" to Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. In ""The Impious Impatience of Job"" she calls upon her substantial knowledge of the Bible to rethink an oft-discussed tale. ""How I Got Fired from My Summer Job"" is a personal memoir about misplacement as a typist in an accounting firm upon completion of graduate school in literature. All in all, Ozick covers an almost unbelievable range of subjectsDfrom lovesickness to cinematic adaptations of Henry James's novels to the merits and beauty of a simple kitchen ladle. She also returns, fiercely, to the HolocaustDboth explicitly in""Who Owns Anne Frank?"" and implicitly in""She: Portrait of the Essay as a Warm Body""Dand other themes that she's explored previously. Ozick writes that Frank ""was born to be a writer,"" that her ""presence"" is ""thick rather than thin""; the same could be said of Ozick herselfDshe brings a novelist's fresh, frank eye to matters others might overlook and demonstrates a heightened consciousness of her own methods as a writer and public figure. And though she confesses a resistance to the political, she in fact succeeds in redefining the notion of the political through these fine essays, making it something subtle and deeply transformative. (Sept.)