Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

everything that angers Ozick into writing essays. Brill may fancy
himself as something of an astronomer (although the litanies of
ad astra
are all that remain), but he cannot connect the “megalo-
saurian colonies of primordial gases that devour smaller brother-
galaxies (i.e. the “cannibal galaxies” of Ozick’s title) — and when
the meal is made, the victim continues to rotate like a Jonah-
dervish inside the cannibal, while the sated ogre-galaxy, its gase­
ous belly stretched, soporific, never spins at all — motionless as
digesting Death” with the cannibalization of his Dual Curricu­
lum. One is an analogue of the other. An education is either Jew­
ish or it isn’t.
And by extension, fiction is either Jewish or it isn’t — despite
Ozick’s self-abnegating postures, despite her insistence that the
term “Jewish writer” is
. . . really a great confusion. On the one hand, it’s a
contradiction, an oxymoron, to say “Jewish writer” because
the writer deals in images, and when you invent or create a
little universe of your own, you put yourself in the place of
God. You’re in competition with the Creator — a parallel, a
rival creator.3
If Failure was Henry Adams’ obsession, it is equally true that he
viewed our national life with an imperious, God-like detachment.
These twin strands account for the tone, and our lasting fascina­
tion with
The education ofHenry Adams.
But, then again, Adams is a
quintessential^ American writer. He could, and did, identify
himself with biblical power at the same time he imagined “Jewish­
ness” as a handicap. In both instances, however, it is metaphor —
rather than memory — that speaks. Ozick has taken considerable
pains to set the long record of confusion and deliberate misstate­
ment straight:
In Hebrew, just as there is
the energy of creative re­
newal and turning, so there is th
eyetzer ha-ra,
The Evil Im­
pulse — so steeped in the dark brilliance of the visionary
that it is said to be the source of the creative faculty. Imagi­
nation is more than make-believe, more than the power to
invent. It is also the power to penetrate evil, to take on evil,
to become evil, and in that guise it is the most frightening
3 Diane Cole, “I Want to Do Jewish Dreaming: A Profile of Cynthia Ozick,”
ment Magazine,
Vol. 9, No. 4 (Summer 1982), p. 56.