Dictation: A Quartet (Hardcover)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547054001, 192pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2008
Cynthia Ozick's new work of fiction brings together four long stories that showcase this incomparable writer's sly humor and piercing insight into the human heart. Each starts in the comic mode, with heroes who suffer from willful self-deceit. These not-so-innocents proceed from self-deception to deceiving others, who do not take it lightly. Revenge is the consequence -- and for the reader, a delicious, if dark, recognition of emotional truth.
The glorious new novella "Dictation" imagines a fateful meeting between the secretaries to Henry James and Joseph Conrad at the peak of their fame. Timid Miss Hallowes, who types for Conrad, comes under the influence of James's Miss Bosanquet, high-spirited, flirtatious, and scheming. In a masterstroke of genius, Ozick hatches a plot between them to insert themselves into posterity.
Ozick is at her most devious, delightful best in these four works, illuminating the ease with which comedy can glide into calamity.
Praise For Dictation: A Quartet…
"Deceptions and obsessions drive this elegant collection of four stories...Playful, teasing, provocative fare from this most accomplished of ironists." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"These novellas are prime examples of Ozick’s rigorous writing style, her propensity for recognizing the element of ridiculousness in human tragedy, and her second-nature sympathy for eccentric characters." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"A carefully honed, sharply intelligent new collection of four stories shows Ozick at the height of her stylistic powers...Ozick's stories ingeniously put scholarship in the service of human flowerings." Publishers Weekly
"Ozick is at the top of her form in these splendid stories, and every library will want a copy. Highly recommended." Library Journal Starred