The Din In The Head: Essays

by Cynthia Ozick

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | June 2, 2007 | Trade Paperback

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One of America's foremost novelists and critics, Cynthia Ozick has won praise and provoked debate for taking on challenging literary, historical, and moral issues. In her spirited essay collection The Din in the Head, she focuses on the essential joys of great literature. With razor-sharp wit and an inspiring joie de vivre, Ozick investigates unexpected byways in the works of Leo Tolstoy, Saul Bellow, Helen Keller, Isaac Babel, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, and Henry James, among others.Throughout this bracing collection, she celebrates the curative power of the literary imagination.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 in

Published: June 2, 2007

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0618872582

ISBN - 13: 9780618872589

Found in: Essays and Letters

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The Din In The Head: Essays

The Din In The Head: Essays

by Cynthia Ozick

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 in

Published: June 2, 2007

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0618872582

ISBN - 13: 9780618872589

Read from the Book

ForewordOn Discord and Desire When Susan Sontag died in the winter of 2004 — at seventy- one, far too soon for her powers to have been exhausted or her intellect slaked — she left a memorable and mottled trail. Much of her life will endure in photographs— but cameras, she argued, do not so much defeat transience as render it “more acute.” Still, here she is on the back cover of my browning paperback copy of The Benefactor, a first novel published in 1963, when she was thirty: dark-haired, dark-browed, sublimely perfected in her youth. The novel, which reads like an audacious, sly, somewhat stilted translation from the French of a nineteenth-century philosophical memoir, ends with “a photograph of myself” — the self of the old narrator, who is contemplating his death. How distant death must have seemed to the young novelist then! In another photograph, dated 1975, she is lying on her back, hands under her head, with strongly traced Picasso eyelids and serene lips less curled than Mona Lisa’s: beautiful at forty-two. Like any celebrity, she could be watched as she aged. Ultimately there came the signature white slash through the blackened forelock, and the face grew not harder but hardier (despite recurrent illness, throughout which she was inordinately courageous). She had a habit of tossing back her long loose hair when it fell, as it did from moment to moment, over her eyes: the abrupt shake of the head, once girlish, turned incongruous in the sexagenarian
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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword On Discord and Desire · 3 · What Helen Keller Saw · 11 · Young Tolstoy: An Apostle of Desire · 33 · John Updike: Eros and God · 47 · Throwing Away the Clef: Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein · 57 · Washington Square: So Many Absent Things · 71 · Smoke and Fire: Sylvia Plath’s Journals · 85 · Kipling: A Postcolonial Footnote · 91 · Delmore Schwartz: The Willed Abortion of the Self · 93 · Lionel Trilling and the Buried Life · 105 · Tradition and (or versus) the Jewish Writer · 125 · Henry James, Tolstoy, and My First Novel · 131 · Highbrow Blues · 147 · The Din in the Head · 157 · The Rule of the Bus · 163 · Isaac Babel: “Let Me Finish” · 179 · In Research of Lost Time · 185 · The Heretical Passions of Gershom Scholem · 197 · And God Saw Literature, That It Was Good: Robert Alter’s Version · 219 · Afterword An (Unfortunate) Interview with Henry James · 235 ·

From the Publisher

One of America's foremost novelists and critics, Cynthia Ozick has won praise and provoked debate for taking on challenging literary, historical, and moral issues. In her spirited essay collection The Din in the Head, she focuses on the essential joys of great literature. With razor-sharp wit and an inspiring joie de vivre, Ozick investigates unexpected byways in the works of Leo Tolstoy, Saul Bellow, Helen Keller, Isaac Babel, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, and Henry James, among others.Throughout this bracing collection, she celebrates the curative power of the literary imagination.

About the Author

Author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, CYNTHIA OZICK is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her writing has appeared in The New Republic , Harper's , and elsewhere. She lives in New York.

Editorial Reviews

"This essay collection on the joys of literature presents [Ozick] at the height of her critical powers...Highly recommended." Library Journal

"Rich and varied...Erudition lightly worn, eloquence finely crafted." Kirkus Reviews

"Over three decades, the din in Cynthia Ozick's head has been worth listening to." --Daphne Merkin Publishers Weekly

"Open the collection anywhere -- I guarantee it -- and you will feel the bite of her distinctive voice." --Sven Birkerts Los Angeles Times

"The passion that fills these essays is invigorating. In our age of irony and commercial pandering, we need writers like Ozick." --Danielle Chapman The Chicago Tribune