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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping One 11/22 Commitment

I first learned of author Cynthia Ozick via "The Shawl", among the most harrowing short stories I have ever read. If you run across this heavily anthologized nightmare, be forewarned. Largely because of my reaction to "The Shawl", I avoided reading more of Ozick's work. 

Though I don't regret avoiding her, after completing "Foreign Bodies" (2009), I realize I've got some catching up to do; Ozick is an author of immense gifts. The book jacket informed me "Foreign Bodies" is a mid-century homage to the esteemed Henry James novel "The Ambassadors". On the strength of Ozick's book, I now plan to tackle "The Ambassadors" despite my frequent difficulties with novels pre-dating the modern era. A few years ago, for similar reasons, I re-read "Great Expectations" right after finishing Lloyd Jones' "Mr. Pip" (2006); a good friend has called my recent reading habits "free-associative" - nice ring to that. What books have you read that led you organically to another?

Aside from one character who struck me as uni-dimensional, "Foreign Bodies" is rich with insights about human nature. But the author is skilled enough to leave me with almost as many questions as answers. In this case, I still haven't decided if the protagonist (Bea Nightingale) is a change agent or a cipher. Many books and people that remain fresh in my mind tend to have that element of mystery.    

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