Long regarded as one of the country’s foremost literary luminaries, Cynthia Ozick began her scholarly life at age five-and-a-half, when her Russian Jewish grandmother took her for religious instruction to a rabbi who declared, “Take her home. A girl doesn’t have to study.”
Her grandmother insisted, and Ozick dazzled her first audience with the fierce intellect that courses through all her writing. She attracts as much praise for her morally rigorous essays as for her satirically witty fiction. Counted among her impressive works of fiction are The Shawl (1989), The Puttermesser Papers (1997), and Heir to the Glimmering World (2004). The essay collections Art and Ardor (1983), Metaphor and Memory (1989), Fame and Folly (1996), and Quarrel and Quandary (2000) cover a remarkable range of subjects, from screen adaptations of Henry James to the political exploitation of Anne Frank. Ozick has also written poetry, drama, and countless articles and reviews. A recent nomination for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize follows earlier prestigious honors, including the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Ozick is the quintessential New Yorker. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, graduated from New York University, and regularly writes for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review.
Excerpt from “Public Intellectuals,” in the essay collection Quarrel & QuandaryThe responsibility of intellectuals includes also the recognition that we cannot live above or apart from our own time and what it imposes on us; that willy-nilly we breathe inside the cage of our generation, and must perform within it. Thinkers—whether they count as public intellectuals or the more reticent and less visible sort—are obliged above all to make distinctions, particularly in an age of mindlessly spreading moral equivalence… And political intellectuals who have the capacity, and the inclination, to reflect on fresh public issues from new perspectives are obliged to reflect on them in so careful a way that their propositions will not seem callous or morally embarrassing or downright despicable decades on.
Heir to the Glimmering World (2004)
Quarrel and Quandary (2000)
The Puttermesser Papers (1997)
The Shawl (1989)
Art and Ardor (1983)