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Quarrel & Quandary
CYNTHIA OZICK

Quarrel & Quandary by Cynthia Ozick
3 reviews (2000) (272p)
Amazon.com Best Books

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Book Description
Quarrel & Quandary showcases the manifold talents of one of our leading and award-winning critics and essayists.

In nineteen opulent essays, Cynthia Ozick probes Dostoevsky for insights into the Unabomber, questions the role of the public intellectual, and dares to wonder what poetry is. She roams effortlessly from Kafka to James, Styron to Stein, and, in the book's most famous essay, dissects the gaudy commercialism that has reduced Anne Frank to "usable goods." Courageous, audacious, and sublime, these essays have the courage of conviction, the probing of genius, and the durable audacity to matter.


Amazon.com Review
"True essayists," declares Cynthia Ozick, "rarely write novels." This pronouncement would seem to overlook a horde of ambidextrous types, from John Updike to Gore Vidal to Charles Baxter to Joyce Carol Oates--and, of course, Ozick herself. The author of three novels, she is also among our finest essayists, combining a Jamesian nose for moral nuance with some of the most playful and pugnacious prose in contemporary letters. And her fourth collection, Quarrel & Quandary, contains some of her very best work. There are ardent considerations of particular authors, including W.G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Swedish modern Goran Tunstrom. But this time around, the author is even more intent on exploring the rhetorical minefield where art and politics overlap. Her introduction, in fact, is one long riff on the importance of being earnestly engagé, at the end of which Ozick manages to have her cake and eat it too: "Two cheers, then--when there is no choice--for being engagé; but three cheers and more for that other bravery, the literary essay, and for memory's mooning and maundering, and for losing one's way in the bliss of American prose...."

In three provocative pieces ("The Rights of History and the Rights of the Imagination," "The Posthumous Sublime," and "Who Owns Anne Frank?"), Ozick suggests that the Holocaust is almost--but not quite--impervious to literature. She's particularly angered by the morphing of Frank's diary into a mother lode of Broadway-style uplift, a transformation that "tampers with history, with reality, with deadly truth." Elsewhere, though, Ozick is less polemical, more willing to be dazzled by Roethke's radiance or Henry James's epistemological high beams. And it's not only specific artists but entire genres that win her awed and eloquent approval:

When we say that poetry is strange, we mean not that it is less than intelligible, but exactly the opposite: poetry is intelligibility heightened, strengthened, distilled to the point of astounding us; and also made manifold. Metaphor is intelligibility's great imperative, its engine of radical amazement.
At its best, Ozick's prose is equally, radically amazing. She may not always compel our agreement--the scolding she administers to W.G. Sebald, whom she clearly admires, is something of a puzzler--but her voice never ceases to register distinction and detail, emitting what she calls "the hum of perpetual noticing." Five cheers, then, for Quarrel & Quandary. And by the way, might Mooning & Maundering be a candidate for the author's next alliterative title? --James Marcus


Other Award Winning Books by Cynthia Ozick
The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick
25 reviews (1997) (256p) (NBA) (NYTimes)
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THE SHAWL by Cynthia Ozick
22 reviews (1989) (96p) (NYTimes)
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The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick
11 reviews (1987) (160p) (PF)
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The Cannibal Galaxy by Cynthia Ozick
3 reviews (1983) (161p) (PF)
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Levitation by Cynthia Ozick
  0 reviews (1982) (0p) (NBCCA)
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Bloodshed by Cynthia Ozick
  0 reviews (1976) (178p) (NBCCA)
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Cynthia Ozick Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 5  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 5  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 2 Bloodshed · Levitation ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 1 The Puttermesser Papers ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 2 The Cannibal Galaxy · The Messiah of Stockholm ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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