Cynthia Ozik’s new novel, “Antiques”, is set in 1949 and 1950 in Westchester County, New York. It is about seven semi-iconic elders: Waspy Geyser with Walkie and Heart Conditions, a patrician boys ‘last surviving trustee’ academy that closed more than three decades ago. They live on luxurious property, their numbers are dwindling, and they are like sun-scorched children.
It is a premise that, as AJ Liebling said, it increases the elasticity of clarity. These are men of means, former lawyers and businessmen, some with families. what are they doing here? What is his monk loyalty to this place?
The spouses, whom Ozik agreed to, reminded me of two of Donald Antrim’s unrealistic novels, the absurdist complex of “The Hundred Brothers” (1997) and “The Verification” (2000).
Each of those novels by Antrim is about crushing strange souls together. At first, 100 brothers of the same parents gather in their family’s dilapidated library for a scrumptious lunch. In another, a large group of psychiatrists had dinner at a pancake house. One of them floats to the ceiling, a sticky, muzzle sucker gets lost in maple syrup and yad.
Ozik’s novel is not so wacky, so very strange. But she introduces a second impossibility for the group’s living situation. The trustees have assigned themselves a literary work. Each has to write a brief memoir of less than 10 pages about their time as students at the academy.
This is not a free-form assignment. The rules are few. Each essay should a) “be limited to what is evident in memory and mood”; B) “only childhood anxiety, and nothing beyond it”; And c) “correctly reflects the atmosphere and principles of the academy at the time in which that event was to be remembered.” Because the trustees are old and lazy and likely to have a long afternoon nap, the deadline is tight.
These fellows are being let to fly one last time, with mnemonic erosion before their possible addition. “Antiquity” is a (very funny) book about literary violation and outrage, a way of reading.
Anyone who has followed Ozik’s career knows that he is happy on these subjects. Her long story “Jealousy; Or, Yiddish in America, “for example, which appeared in his 1971 collection” The Pagan Rabbi, “is a masterpiece of pique. If only he was also a translator.
Austrover gives funny readings that infect adultsin. Asked on stage whether he followed Jewish dietary rules, Ostrover replies: “I was heartened to know that the moment a oyster enters my stomach, it is an anti-Semite it happens. Once the shrimp bowl started a pogrom against my intestines. “Some readers may forget that Ozik, who was just 93, has a darting, perceptive intelligence;” Antiquity “is a reminder.
This new book – it is extensively structured and strongly colored – is a relatively small addition to a specific body of work, composed over seven decades, including the novel (“Trust,” “The Messiah of Stockholm,” Are included “Putmasser Papers”), Books of short stories (“The shawl”) And several volumes of literary criticism, almost all of which are steeped in conscious awareness of Jewish cultural heritage, but grounded in universal human quiddities.
“Antiquities” is a small addition, but it is a real one. Narrator – We are personal to his magazine – Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie. He is a retired lawyer and a lone trustee; There is something about him that sets him apart, others like to joke.
When he attended school, he was moderate and ill; He preferred outdoor chess to football. He followed the dictatorship of Samuel Johnson, who is about to “force an owl on the day” to place a shy boy in a private school.
Lloyd went on to edit the Yale Law Journal and has a reasonably respected career. But he suffers from a feeling of isolation. When he manages to push it out through a door, it returns through a window.
We know of his weak marriage and about his son, who wants him to move to Hollywood. (Regarding scripts, Lloyd sniffs: “Can a cure, so-called, be possessed of literary cachet?” The love of his life.
The heart of this novel lies in the story Lloyd is trying to relate to in his essay about the Academy, a story that keeps him up late at night to bang on his Remington typewriter, against other trustees.
The essay is about her friendship with a boy named Ben-Zion Elephantine, and the casual but intense anti-Semitism during her time at the academy. Ben-Zion is from Elephantine Island in Egypt, and this fact allows Ozik to examine some of the complex Jewish history of that island.
The worldly and well-traveled Ben-Zion is scolded at school, and Lloyd’s friendship with her – they are tied at chess – also beats Lloyd. He cannot understand his lost situation. “I was, after all, a petri, and a petri is by nature for mockers, not for mockery.”
These boys are young; Ben-Zion is 11 and Lloyd only 10. But there is an erotic element in their friendship. Confused by emotions, Lloyd felt that he had been haunted for life.
Lloyd works these feelings regularly at lunch, at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, with a Jewish friend, who was also a student at the academy at the time. “I was suffering all those years in school, Lloyd, and it’s not something a person forgets,” says the friend. “You never go out of your way to harm me.”
“Antiquities” has a fanciful aspect. Lloyd, in his memories, begins to wonder if Ben-Zion could be some kind of illusion. But Ozik puts his book in real-life baggage.
The tone is sad. In one memorable scene, Lloyd discovers that his beloved typewriter has been vandalized. A few days later, he peeks from his window into the courtyard and looks at the other trustees, pans at him.
The potential barbarian proceeds with his walker, “as if to greet about the sick.” As he does, he travels on a branch and takes a nasty spill. Within days, he is dead. Malice and malice. In literature and life, they are silent killers.