Dictation (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
In Dictation: A Quartet, Cynthia Ozick presents four long stories, three of them previously published: “Dictation,” “Actors,” “At Fumicaro,” and “What Happened to the Baby?” An admirer of Henry James’s work in her early years, Ozick later freed herself from his influence. The title story, “Dictation,” is an exuberantly witty exercise in imagination in which James, his spoken words mimicking his elaborately constructed prose, discusses literary matters with the young Joseph Conrad, the apprentice novelist. James and Conrad were acquaintedthat much is history. The rest of the story is the author’s invention.
Conrad, visiting the master in his country home, learns that James, his hands crippled by years of gripping his pen, has hired an amanuensis to type his dictated words on a newfangled invention, the Remington. Conrad worries: Might the intervention of the typist and her machine break the sacred relationship between the brain and the pen?
Nine years later, after Conrad has achieved success, he meets James again in London. However, Conrad’s hands have been crippled by gout; he, too, has hired a secretary with a Remington. Conrad and James debate weighty literary questions, such as whether a writer’s fiction reveals the dark secrets of his inner self, as Conrad believes, or masks his true identity, as James...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 104, no. 11 (February 1, 2008): 5.
The Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 2008, p. 16.
Commentary 126, no. 2 (September, 2008): 68-72.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 3 (February 1, 2008): 111-112.
Library Journal 133, no. 5 (March 15, 2008): 66-67.
Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2008, p. R4.
The New York Times Book Review, April 20, 2008, p. 11.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 2 (January 14, 2008): 37.
The Washington Post, April 13, 2008, p. T10.
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