Tag: Cynthia Ozick

Named and Inhabited Evil

Someone posted on Facebook this article from November 2015, making the parallels between the current refugee crisis and the plight of Anne Frank and her family. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, began exploring options and seeking visas to come to the United States (and Cuba) just as those visas were becoming increasingly impossible to get. Now that Trump has announced his intentions to cut the admittance of refugees even further, the parallel becomes even more painful and apt. Twenty years ago, in a devastating piece for The New Yorker, Cynthia Ozick wrote about what a literary masterpiece Anne Frank’s diary is, and how it has been distended and distorted by all manner of humanitarian and high school tripe, such that we […]

Because you were strangers in the land of Egypt

For centuries, Jews have watched, helplessly, their synagogues burned to the ground. Now, with state power, comes this: In the clearest indication of the growing dangers threatening Al-Aqsa Mosque, in an opinion piece published on Saturday, Haaretz discussed a group of rabbis who met to discuss the scheme for the establishment of the Third Temple on the ruins of the mosque. The newspaper published a photograph of a number of rabbis and engineers studying a map of Al-Aqsa Mosque. In a piece written by Professor Ronnie Ellenblum entitled “Bells are ringing for the ultra-Orthodox and Secular” [hebrew], the paper discussed the future of Al-Aqsa Mosque which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount. Although the paper did not identify the […]

When it comes to our parents, we are all the memoirists of writers

Writing in last week’s New Yorker about the memoirs of children of famous writers, James Wood raises a question that has been asked before: “Can a man or a woman fulfill a sacred devotion to thought, or music, or art or literature, while fulfilling a proper devotion to spouse or children?” As Wood points out, George Steiner entertained a similar proposition some 20 years ago, also in The New Yorker. (Steiner had been moved to this suspicion by the prod of Louis Althusser’s strangling of his wife. Of course. It wouldn’t be Steinerian if weren’t just a touch Wagnerian.) And Cynthia Ozick wrestled with it in the 1970s or maybe early 80s in a pair of reviews: one of Quentin […]

An Interview with Cynthia Ozick

Someone on Twitter or FB pointed me to this old Paris Review interview with Cynthia Ozick. From the Spring 1987 issue. So many fine moments. Here’s my little annotated version of it. But read the whole thing. “I wrote about 300,000 words of it.” Immediately after graduate school . . . ah, here I should stop to explain that there was a very short period in the early fifties when would-be writers were ashamed to go on to get a Ph.D. A very short period! But that was when one tried out teaching for a while after college—as a teaching assistant on a stipend—and then fled homeward to begin the novel. Mine, typically, was immensely ambitious. I thought of it […]

Anne Frank’s Diary Should Have Been Burned

Cynthia Ozick is on my mind. She’s one of my favorite essayists. She has terrible politics when it comes to Israel/Palestine, but hardly anyone writing today can match the astringency of her vision. This, the conclusion to her essay “Who Owns Anne Frank?”, which first appeared in The New Yorker and then in her collection Quarrel and Quandary, gives you a flavor of just how uncompromising she can be. On Friday, August 4, 1944, the day of the arrest, Miep Gies climbed the stairs to the hiding place and found it ransacked and wrecked. The beleaguered little band had been betrayed by an informer who was paid seven and a half guilders—about a dollar—for each person: sixty guilders for the lot. Miep […]

Mr. Mailer, when you dip your balls in ink, what color ink is it?

No one—not Gore Vidal, not William Styron, not anyone—ever took down Norman Mailer the way Cynthia Ozick did at Town Hall in 1971. The setting: a debate on “women’s liberation,” as it was then called. The players: Mailer v. Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, Jill Johnston, and Jacqueline Ceballos. (The event was later memorialized as a documentary.) Everyone focused on the exotic beauty and wit of Greer, the antics of Johnston (which prompted Mailer to say, “Come on, Jill, be a lady”), and the demure, sly presence of Susan Sontag in the audience, but to my mind it was Ozick who stole the show. When she asked, in her neurotic and nervous way, the following question: This question, I have been […]