Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In Levitation: Five Fictions, Cynthia Ozick presents the reader with four short stories and a novella, all of which focus on the problematic relationship between the Jewish artist and history. This book, Ozick’s third collection of short fiction, features women protagonists whose lives are disrupted by their own creations.

“Levitation,” the work that opens and names this collection, begins as a couple named Feingold try to rise above their secondary status as authors by giving a party for famous writers. Although no stars attend, the Feingolds’ apartment fills with minor writers. In the dining room, the guests are either gentiles or very secular Jews. In contrast, the living room is dominated by a Holocaust survivor surrounded by Mr. Feingold and the more intense, serious Jewish guests. Standing in the hall between the two groups, Lucy Feingold, a convert to Judaism, realizes that she rejects the Jews and their fascination with history and anti-Semitism. A dual vision ensues, allowing her to see the living room, with its human links to the past, rise upward toward the ceiling; meanwhile, she imagines herself joining a pagan festival in a park, emphasizing her choice of Hellenism over Hebraism.

“Shots” also focuses on the difficulties posed by an artist’s struggle to understand her relationship to the past; the unnamed, first-person, female narrator has become a photographer in order to freeze people into a moment of time. After capturing a murder on film, the narrator becomes aware of the power of “shooting” someone with a camera. Appropriately for someone fascinated with preserving the past, the narrator develops an infatuation with an unhappily married...

(The entire section is 697 words.)