Cynthia Ozick's creation, Ruth Puttermesser, is familiar from , , , as well as a previous collection of her stories, . The five stories (or episodes) that make up this novel have all appeared, generally in the same form, in the pages of those magazines and that book. After nearly twenty years of preoccupation with Ms. Puttermesser Ozick has collected the tales and called it a novel. Their familiarity, read piecemeal over the years, does nothing to diminish the accomplishment -- but we envy those that come to the book having never read about Ruth.
Ozick has always been an almost impeccable stylist, and in there is nary a wasted word. Ozick is word and pitch-perfect in presenting the tale of her lawyer in this unusual fiction. The episodes sound banal and hackneyed if summarized (Puttermesser creates a golem and becomes mayor of New York, Puttermesser in paradise, Puttermesser and the Russian émigré ...), but Ozick's precise prose makes each line magical.
Puttermesser is, to date, her finest sustained invention. The stories -- inventive, fantastic, wry, clever -- are perfect pieces, and they fit together well in this whole we are now offered. Not all of Ozick's topics are of great interest to us (we are indifferent to the religious (in this case Jewish) preoccupation, in particular), but Ozick weaves all her concerns together so well -- and expresses herself and tells her story so well -- that we follow her character eagerly.
A masterly novel that we recommend without reservation to one and all.
Finally available in the UK (July, 1999), is particularly recommended to the lucky British readers who have not come across the character previously in the American magazines in which she has appeared.
Ozick does with her is contained in the second Puttermesser paper, ''Puttermesser and Xanthippe,'' in which we are reminded that Puttermesser, now 46, is a feminist.
Cynthia Ozick was born in Manhattan and has lived in the NewYork City area most of her life. She attended Hunter College High School,graduated Phi Beta Kappa from New York University with honors in English, andholds a masters degree from Ohio State University. She lives in WestchesterCounty and is married to Bernard Hallote, a retired lawyer. Their daughter,Rachel S. Hallote, an archaeologist, is the director of the Jewish studiesprogram at the State University of New York at Purchase.
She is acclaimed for her many works of fiction and criticism. She was a finalistfor the National Book Award for her previous novel, which was named one of the top ten books of the year by the and the Her most recent essay collection, won the 2001National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Ozicks work has beentranslated into thirteen languages worldwide. Her classic novella was produced for the stage in New York, directed by Sidney Lumet.
Without question, Cynthia Ozick is among the major livingAmerican writers. She has published widely beginning with the novel in 1966. Over the years she has written poems, short stories, essays, novels,and plays. Among them: (1971); (1983); (1983); (1987 (1989); (1989); (1992); (1994); and (1996). Her many awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and theMildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy and Instituteof Arts and Letters.
She has the unique honor of being the first writer to be giventhe Rea Award for the Short Story. In making their selection, the jurors said:"A writer of great intelligence, moral energy, and imaginative power,Cynthia Ozick has appreciably widened the range of what the short story is ableto be . . . Reading , we are moved past the truth of fact to adeeper, different understanding; we bear witness to the truth of art. Onlyrarely does this happen, and when it does, it must be celebrated."
She published in 2004 and in 2010.