quarrel & quandary: essays by cynthia ozick

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Description: “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

ISBN: 0375410619

Genre: Essays

Edition: Hardcover

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Original Price: $25.00

Rating: 7 of 10

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jimmy corrigan: the smartest kid on earth by chris ware

The morose and beautiful are subject matter for Chris Ware’s comic books. This book would be tremendous for children if was not full of depression, self-loathing and the sort of existential questioning that would make Kirkengaard feel blue.

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Author(s): Chris Ware

ISBN: 0375714545

Genre: Comics

Edition: Paperback

Publisher: Pantheon Books

Original Price: $17.95

Rating: 8 of 10

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!/images/16.jpg (Jimmy Corrigan, smartest kid on earth)!

!/images/17.jpg (Jimmy Corrigan, smartest kid on earth)!


the white boy shuffle by paul beatty


white man shuffle

Derogatory term attributed to caucasians inability to dance with any rhythm. This consists of keeping the feet firmly planted on the ground and pivoting the upper body left and right, often with arms to the sides and bent slightly to permit silent finger snapping.”


Author(s): Paul Beatty

Description: This is a laugh-out-loud first novel, but be forewarned: Paul Beatty’s humor is literate, but in- your-face outrageous. The faint of heart (or politically correct) should stay away. The White Boy Shuffle is a gleefully satiric gloss on black history and culture, featuring a main character named Gunnar (as in Myrdal) Kaufman, descendant of Euripides Kaufman, who stood aside and let Crispus Attucks get shot during the Boston Massacre, and Swen Kaufman, who-in an unfortunate reversal- escaped south from freedom into slavery. Elsewhere, it features a character who attends Dred Scott High School, and another who works for the Department of Visual Segregation in Nashville, Tennessee, painting “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” signs.

ISBN: 0-8050-5351-4

Genre: African American men

Edition: Paperback

Publisher: Owl Books (NY)

Original Price: $13.00

Rating: 9 of 10

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the death and life of great american cities by jane jacobs

Jane Jacobs is a woman of great knowledge and influence that does not have the typical pretentions of classical education. She has educated and shaped the way cities are planned for 40 years. Her simple, astute observations about city life make you wish that she was your neighbour and mayor all at once.

She lives in Toronto.

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Author: Jane Jacobs
ISBN: 067974195x
Publisher: Vintage Books
Place: New York
Format: Paperback
# Pages: 458
Release: November 1, 1992
Summary: Penetrating analysis of the functions and organization of city neighborhoods, the forces of deterioration and regeneration, and the necessary planning innovations
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