Ozick has been a fervent critic of identity politics since the nineteen-seventies ... and yet few have written so well about the inconstant self-esteem of the socially marginalized ... A brisk work of some thirty thousand words, it explores her favorite subjects—envy and ambition, the moral peril of idolatry—in her favorite form. As you might expect, it also has much to say about last things, and the long perspectives open to the human mind as it approaches its terminus ... It’s here, around the halfway point, that Ozick begins to move through the gears of her formidable imagination, introducing a tincture of magic to what has so far been a piece of fairly standard realism ... Ozick’s book about a man ensnared by history is at once a warning against the hazards of nostalgia and an invitation to take a longer view of how we got to where we are. Transfixed by the unfolding spectacle of current events, the modern reader is apt to miss her richest and most subtle suggestion: that we have made an idol of the present.
Ozick’s nonfiction is sharp, layered, earnest, and extremely funny. Her essays on Sontag or Updike or Roth or Gass or Trilling ought not to resonate as they once did, but following Ozick’s arguments about decades-old literary controversies is an urgent, exhilarating experience. Perhaps it is her understanding of how language holds in its arms both our souls and our wits, the imagination and the intellect, that infuses her nonfiction with this pulse of necessity ... Fiction, on the other hand, 'is all discovery,' and hers is raucous, unexpected, passionate, and wildly original. Everything I have read (and I am still reading) hurtles forward with the force of anticipation and intellectual surprise. The suspense of her work would be inexplicable sometimes if considering only the subject ... No matter what the topic, Ozick’s prose urges the breathless reader along, her love of language rolling excitedly through her sentences like an ocean wave. Ozick’s new novel, Antiquities , moves softly, with a tenderness and quiet intimacy that settle on a most unlikely Ozick character: Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, an elderly WASP lawyer ... Short and swift and elegant, it is also as rich and as complicated as any of Ozick’s creations ... Ozick knows to what end. She knows there is a relationship that begins within the writer and flows to the words she writes and on to her readers ... She is a writer of wild and spacious and daunting imagination, of unyielding sensitivity to the absurdities of life and to its pain, so much pain ... Freedom and volatility and irresponsibility conferred and commanded by imagination—this is a wonderful description of Ozick’s own writing, to which should be added playful intelligence, comic wisdom, eloquent abundance, the knife edge of economy, the lightness of irony, the weight of history, and finally an overarching passion—no, let’s call it love—for words in all their delicacy and power.
About to turn 93 years old, she is as vibrant on the page as ever. In Antiquities, the latest of her many books, Ozick employs her virtuosic literary style to weave an enigmatic tale about the ephemeral nature of memory and the transience of life ... vintage Cynthia Ozick. But whether you’re new to her work or a longtime fan, you’ll find plenty to entertain as well as to astonish ... Ozick simultaneously builds suspense and provides comic relief by having the absent-minded Petrie repeatedly begin to spill the beans, then suddenly meander away to another topic ... Indisputable is Ozick’s exquisite artistry in rendering yet another resonant and unsettling tale.