"Dictation" by Cynthia Ozick (2009, 50 pages)
For sometime now I have been seeing references to Cynthia Ozick (New York City, 1928) as one of the best contemporary English language short story writers and I have wanted to read at least one of her stories. I did not really know which one to pick until I found she had written a highly regarded short story (some would call this a novella but I classify it as a short story) about two women who worked for two of the greatest early 20th century English language writers, Henry James and Joseph Conrad. Their job was to type up the master work in publication ready copy. I admit I am an easy sell when it comes to works of fiction about great writers and I really liked this very clever story. As it opens we are in the London home of Henry James and we meet the woman, one of several he has been through, who types up his works for the printer. Joseph Conrad comes to tea and it was fascinating to be a fly on the wall. We then meet the woman who does the same work for Conrad and they meet each other. What happens next is really a lot of fun to read about and discover, it is purely fiction but it could have happened.
It would not be right to tell much at all of the plot of this wonderful story. There are some subplots that I loved and Ozick brought these two sideline figures in the lives of two great writers to life for me.
I read this story in her collection of four stories, also called Dictation.
I will look forward to reading more of her short stories.
Please share your experience with Ozick with us.
That's the way I like to read about the lives of writers! It sounds like a great collection.
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