Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

“Actors” - A Short Story by Cynthia Ozick, first published in The New Yorker October 10, 1998

Please share your experience with the work of Cynthia Ozick with US.

“Actors” is the fourth work by Cynthia Ozick I have had the pleasure of reading.  Previously I read her novel, Heir to the Glimmering World
and her novella, Dictation.  I like works in which the characters read, where books play an important part.  Heir to the Glimmering World is centred on the family, Jewish immigrants from Nazi Germany.  The husband is a world class scholar, his wife a once famous physicist now gone quite mad.  Dictation is about what happens when the secretaries of Joseph Conrad and Henry James meet.  I also read her beyond praise Holocaust story, “The Shawl”.

“Actors” has wonderful characters.  The lead is a late middle aged stage actor, in New York City.  He fancies himself a great actor.  He has not worked much lately though he was once successful.  His wife Francis is the main breadwinner in the family.  She is crossword puzzle editor.  Every week she is obligated to produce three puzzles, one easy, one of the middle range, and one very challenging.  She is a very erudite polyglot.  They both speak some Yiddish and Matt is very much from the Yiddish theatrical tradition.  She had four miscarriages. He thinks he should not have to audition or seek out roles.  His wife wishes he would work more.

A lot of the fun of this story is following the actor as he visits theatres.  We see the vivid personalities involved.  He is offered a role playing Lear, but not that Lear.  It is a part in a play set in New York City about an elderly man with three adult daughters.  Of course he at first refuses the part saying he is not old enough but he agrees.The playwright has just died but the director says that does not matter.  There are very well wrought minor characters and the depiction of the relationship of the couple is very well done.  The opening of the play was 

“Actors” was a great pleasure to read.  The collection in which “Actors” appears Dictations: A Quartet, has two short stories I am looking forward to reading, in addition to Dictation.

“Her parents were immigrants from Russia – her mother came as a child, her father at 21 to escape the tsarist conscription. They ran a pharmacy together, addressed each other in public as Mr and Mrs O, and brought up their two children in what Ozick now sees as the tail end of the 19th century. "Certainly there were plenty of cars, but the milkman came with horse and truck, in the Bronx, and in the summer the horses turds would be on the sidewalk and the sun was very hot and the streets were made of tar and these straw turds would sink into the tar and they had this fragrance of barn and country and it was not an unpleasant olfactory experience.”  From The Guardian 

The digital list price for the book is $14.95, it is now on sale for $1.95.

Mel u

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

Other than Heir to the Glimmering World (which, yes, is so delightfully bookish), I have only read a few essays (on art and film - I can't recall the name of the volume). She is a writer who often intrigues me, but I have yet to settle into her seriously. There are several of her works at my local library branch but I don't think Dictation is among them - I will take another look!