April 17, 2017

Happy eighty-nine, Cynthia Ozick!


“If I’ve ever regretted anything it was putting all my eggs in one basket, holing up and kneeling at the altar of literature, instead of going out and at least reviewing, running around and trying to write for magazines. That would’ve been the intelligent thing to do but I didn’t and that was because of fanaticism.”

So the great Cynthia Ozick, who turns eighty-nine today, described the seven years she spent working on her ultimately unpublished first novel. One of America’s most distinguished writers, Ozick hardly needs an introduction here. She’s the author of more than twenty books, with some of the coolest titles in the history of ink on paper (see: The Cannibal Galaxy, The Pagan RabbiAll the World Wants the Jews Dead).

Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of her first book, the novel Trust, and her output has continued through recent years, with the essay collection Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays out last summer.

There are many ways to celebrate the splendor that is Ozick: you could read Tom Teicholz’s excellent 1987 interview with her in the Paris Review, or Paul Morton’s 2008 interview in Bookslut. You should certainly read this voluble and fascinating interview with Ozick by our own Jacques Berlinerblau, author of the forthcoming Campus Confidential. And Emma Brockes’s 2011 Guardian profile is highly worth a read.

But, of course, no Ozickorama would be complete without revisiting this legendary video of her taking Norman Mailer to task at a 1971 roundtable discussion in New York City. The footage made it to DA Pennebaker’s documentary Town Bloody Hall, and is, how you say, a total joy. “The reason Mr. Mailer appears not to comprehend and appears to patronize — I think I’m onto it, and I’ll let you into it also. He’s not not comprehending and he’s not patronizing. He’s a priest.” Prepare for a 180-second tour of the primal, erotic, basic religion of the world, not to mention Mailer’s balls:

Cynthia Ozick, you’re awesome.