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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
Dictation: A Quartet
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on February 16, 2017
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on August 4, 2008
How refreshing to read something written by someone with such a facility with language! The stories were wonderful. Highly recommended to me by my cousin -- and he was absolutely right!
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VINE VOICEon April 9, 2013
I read only the title story, about a scheme between the amanuenses of Joseph Conrad and Henry James, and was not motivated to continue. The secretaries were superficial and unlikely, the authors themselves blustering caricatures. In her novel Cannibal Galaxy (Library of Modern Jewish Literature) and the story "The Pagan Rabbi" (her previous works with which I was familiar), Ozick portrayed deep feeling and a sense of consequence and doom, but this story seemed like language poetry, more concerned with brilliant turns of phrase than with the hearts of the characters.
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on August 5, 2011
The stories in this collection, despite their length, are each driven by ideas (pretty much one per story) rather than characters. The closest to a character driven story, and the one I liked best, is " At Fumicaro", but even this is rather dry. I am sure some other readers will find humor and irony in the "Dictation" story, it is certainly clever.
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on January 31, 2012
I have long loved Cynthia Ozick's writing--there are few writers that offer such pure pleasure from their sentences. But my response to this collection of four long stories is split: I adored the first story ("Dictation," about a hypothetical encounter between the typewriter/secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad and their bid for an immortality of their own), admired the second ("Actors," about a "difficult" actor who gets rather too absorbed in his role), and found the next two eminently skimmable. So...recommended for "Dictation," which is really a remarkable work, satisfying on multiple levels.
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on November 4, 2012
Ozick manages here, as in most of her other long short stories and novellas, to do some tremendous things, making language and meaning pliable in a way that almost nobody else manages to do. She breaks all sorts of "rules" commonly taught in creative writing courses, and does so to amazing effect. For my money the best story in here is "Whatever Happened to the Baby?", though all the pieces are strong and satisfying.
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on April 28, 2008
It's incredible! Every time a new book of Ozick's is published, I give thanks to the Muses for having provided her the necessary inspiration. As usual, her sentences are gorgeous and lyrical; the characters are funny and utterly compelling.

"Dictation" is the only story contained that has not been previously published. It begins with the master Henry James and an emerging Joseph Conrad. Her characterizations of each man, as well as of Conrad's wife, are hilarious. Soon, however, the story shifts to the writers' amanuenses. For fear of ruining any of the story's surprises - there are many! - I will only say that the story may motivate you to go out and re-read, or read for the first time, certain stories by James and Conrad. (Though of course that may be a foolish enterprise, considering the story's "punch line.")

Familiar themes of morality and art are present, but Ozick explores them in a way I didn't expect.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of contemporary literature.
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