“Four expertly turned stories” of comedy, deception, and revenge from the acclaimed author of Heir to the Glimmering World (TheNew York Times Book Review).
A New York Times Notable Book
Dictation brings together four long stories by this Pulitzer and Man Booker Prize finalist, forming a quartet of sly humor and piercing insight into the human heart.
The title story 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 literary posterity.
Each story in the collection starts in the comic mode, with heroes who suffer willful self-deceit. From self-deception, these not-so-innocents proceed to deceive others, who don’t take it lightly. Revenge is the consequence—and for the reader, a delicious if dark recognition of emotional truth.
In Dictation, an author whose stories have won four O. Henry first prizes “reveals herself a master” (The New York Times Book Review).
“A testament to the seductions of language and the smoldering aspirations of art.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A brilliant book, a necessary book, a book that radiates the true intelligence of literature from every page.” —The New York Observer
A carefully honed, sharply intelligent new collection of four stories shows Ozick (The Heir to the Glimmering World) at the height of her stylistic powers. The title story, by far the strongest tale, follows the female secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, both of whom take dictation from the two egoist titans. When the authors meet in London, their two amanuenses collude to make their own mark on their masters' work; in so doing, they exalt, with an undeniably sexual glee, that they will thus attain immortality. "Actors" looks on wryly as TV character actor Matt Sorley, n Mose Sadacca and nearing 60, reluctantly takes a role that will either cap his career or defeat him. "At Fumicaro" follows an American Catholic literary critic in Mussolini's Italy as he falls head over heels in love with a pregnant 16-year-old peasant girl: "She was more hospitable to God than anyone who hoped to find God in books." The exuberant "What Happened to the Baby?" follows a young college student and her eccentric Esperanto-spouting uncle to his mid-20th-century meetings of the League for a Unified Humanity. Ozick's stories ingeniously put scholarship in the service of human flowerings.