Cynthia Ozick: Or, Immortality

Horn_rotatingDara Horn at the Jewish Review of Books:

Why does Cynthia Ozick, at 88 an undisputed giant of American letters, still seem obsessed with fame?

Like nearly everyone else who appreciates Cynthia Ozick’s brand of genius—and I don’t mean “brand” in the 21st-century sense, but rather the brand plucked from the fire, searing one’s lips into prophecy (the distinction between the two neatly encapsulates Ozick’s chief artistic fascinations)—I’m not the type of person who is a fan of anything at all. As something close to Ozick’s ideal reader, I am skeptical of the entire concept of fandom, religiously suspicious of the kind of artistic seduction that would make one uncritical of anything created by someone who isn’t God. But I am nevertheless a fan of Ozick’s, in the truly fanatical sense. I have read every word she’s ever published, taught her fiction and essays at various universities, reviewed her books for numerous publications (occasionally even the same book twice), written her fan letters and then swooned over the succinct handwritten replies in which she graciously gave me a sentence more than the time of day, and even based my own work as a novelist on her concept of American Jewish literature as a liturgical or midrashic enterprise (a stance she has since rejected, though too late for me). As a young reader I was astonished by what she apparently invented: fiction in English that dealt profoundly not with Judaism as an “identity,” but with the actual content of Jewish thought, at a time when almost no one, and certainly no one that talented, was quite bothering to try.

more here.