Words of the Week: Cynthia (“Shoshana”) Ozick

Last Wednesday, Cynthia Ozick received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jewish Book Council. These words are taken from “Shoshana” Ozick’s acceptance speech:

The inmost structure of a Jewish writer will carry the history of a long, long procession of Jewish ideas and experiences — and this will hold whether the writer wishes to abandon or cultivate those ideas and experiences. In either case, they must be grappled with.

I recommend the entire speech. Do read it.

Words of the Week: David Grossman (trans. Jessica Cohen)

I won’t lie to you. Reading David Grossman’s To the End of the Land wasn’t easy. It’s a long, difficult read. But there are 2 1/2 pages that I found so searing, so extraordinary, that they would have been enough to justify the entire book/purchase (or, as we say, dayenu).

Here’s a snippet:

What do you tell a six-year-old boy, a pip-squeak Ofer, who one morning, while you’re taking him to school, holds you close on the bike and asks in a cautious voice, “Mommy, who’s against us?” And you try to find out exactly what he means, and he answers impatiently, “Who hates us in the world? Which countries are against us?” And of course you want to keep his world innocent and free of hatred, and you tell him that those who are against us don’t always hate us, and that we just have a long argument with some of the countries around us about all sorts of things, just like children in school sometimes have arguments and even fights. But his little hands tighten around your stomach, and he demands the names of the countries that are against us, and there is an urgency in his voice and in his sharp chin that digs into your back, and so you start to name them: “Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon. But not Egypt–we have peace with them!” you say cheerfully. “We had lots of wars with them, but now we’ve made up.”….”Is Egypt really our friend?” “Not really,” you admit, “they still don’t completely want to be our our friends.” “So they’re against us,” he solemnly decrees, and immediately asks if there are other “countries of Arabs,” and he doesn’t let let up until you name them all: “Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Kuwait, and Yemen.” You can feel his mouth learning the names behind your back, and you add Iran–not exactly Arabs, but not exactly our friends, either. After a pause he asks softly if there are any more, and you mumble, “Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria,” and then you remember Indonesia and Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan–none of those stans sounds so great to you–and here we are at school, sweetie! When you help him get off the bike seat, he feels heavier than usual.

And this: (more…)

Words of the Week: David Abrams

She’s a classic storyteller and there’s a clear, direct line from Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud to her 21st-century keyboard.

Please forgive me, but I can’t resist sharing this snippet from a review of my new short-story collection, Quiet Americans. The reviewer is David Abrams, and you can read his full take on the book right here. High praise, indeed! Thank you, David.

Assuming that the trains are running despite snow/ice/sleet, I will be on my way to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference in D.C. tomorrow. I’m unlikely to post while I’m away, but I should have plenty to share once I return.

Have a great several days. See you back here soon.