Ozick's latest work of fiction brings together four long
stories, including the novella-length "Dictation," that showcase
this incomparable writer's sly humor and piercing insight into the
human heart. Each starts in the comic mode, with heroes who suffer
from 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.The glorious novella
"Dictation" imagines a fateful meeting between the secretaries to
Henry James and Joseph Conrad at the peak of those authors' 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 posterity.Ozick is at her
most devious, delightful best in these four works, illuminating the
ease with which comedy can glide into calamity.