Magazine article World Literature Today

Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays

Magazine article World Literature Today

Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays

Article excerpt

Cynthia Ozick. Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016. 211 pages.

This slender but dazzling collection of thirteen essays, some previously published but refurbished, is primarily concerned with fiction and criticism, both of which Cynthia Ozick practices with ease. It is clear that she is not a reviewer but a critic. Reviewers are allocated a certain amount of space, while critics can-or should-be given free rein, addressing not just the work but its relationship to the world in which it gestated and into which it arrived.

Naturally, such critics are rare. Most can synopsize and summarize, but not all can judge, the root meaning of "critic"-one who can adjudicate, producing something akin to literature. Ozick asks as much of critics as Alexander Pope did in "An Essay on Criticism," who demanded "a knowledge both of books and humankind" Ozick is very much the kind of critic Pope envisioned. The epigraph is taken from Pope's essay, and the title was suggested by Pope's challenge to critics, urging them to attack the excesses of the age: "These monsters, Critics! …

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