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The Pagan Rabbi, and Other Stories

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Ozick is a kind of narrative hypnotist. Her range is extraordinary; there is seemingly nothing she can't do. Her stories contain passages of intense lyricism and brilliant, hilarious, uncontainable inventiveness. Ozick is a kind of narrative hypnotist. Her range is extraordinary; there is seemingly nothing she can't do. Her stories contain passages of intense lyricism and brilliant, hilarious, uncontainable inventiveness.


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Ozick is a kind of narrative hypnotist. Her range is extraordinary; there is seemingly nothing she can't do. Her stories contain passages of intense lyricism and brilliant, hilarious, uncontainable inventiveness. Ozick is a kind of narrative hypnotist. Her range is extraordinary; there is seemingly nothing she can't do. Her stories contain passages of intense lyricism and brilliant, hilarious, uncontainable inventiveness.

30 review for The Pagan Rabbi, and Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    These stories aren't nearly as good as other stories of Ozick's I've recently read. They are a little over-written and too short-story-ish. The kind of stories that makes you think of school and that you imagine earnest writing students writing earnestly as they bear their soul on paper along with some extra words to make it look like their soul is more soulful than it probably really is, not that there is anything wrong with their soul to begin with but sometimes there is the feeling to embelli These stories aren't nearly as good as other stories of Ozick's I've recently read. They are a little over-written and too short-story-ish. The kind of stories that makes you think of school and that you imagine earnest writing students writing earnestly as they bear their soul on paper along with some extra words to make it look like their soul is more soulful than it probably really is, not that there is anything wrong with their soul to begin with but sometimes there is the feeling to embellish. These stories are pretty Jewey. I mean that in the most underogatory manner one could ever imagine. Not in the way that Philip Roth is Jewey, but in a non-self hating Jew Jewey way. One story even deals with some Isaac Bashevis Singer making fun of, which is kind of funny if only because it's funny to think that there were Yiddish speaking Jews who might have hated him for being so popular among goyim. There is a guard at work that finds the cover (which is different on my copy than the one you see above), which has a rabbi hugging a tree. He wants to read the story and he laughs when he mentions the book. I am amused at how much he is amused by the book and I plan on giving him the book once I remember to bring it to work on a day that he is working. You know who I wouldn't give this book to? DoctorM* or that douche with the funny hair who had a girl fight his battles for him and then blocked me for calling him an idiot on his total lack of understanding what the literary term gothic meant and on his misuse of the term in a review that I cited as ridiculous bullshit. I wouldn't give either of them this book because it is mine and why would I give them a present? ------------------------------------------------------ *I'm of the belief that he must be name dropped if one is to earn votes these days, and seriously this review sucks so far. What have I really said? I've used the word Jewey a few times, and blahed about blah blah, but there is no content. One might wonder if I even really remember reading this book. One might ask, Greg, can you seriously not remember almost anything about this book even though you read it only 10 days ago? One might ask a question like that but why would someone write a review for a book that they barely remember, and not even pick up the bok to leaf through and jog their memory, especially if the aforementioned book were within arm-reach because unreviewed books are left on the ground where my mattress meets the floor because that is where books that need to be reviewed are put so they can be in my way until I review them. Obviously, this is not the case and the fact that you are thinking this is a little disturbing to me, first of all because you might consider me to the the type with a bad memory; secondly to be the type of person who would just ramble on in a desperate attempt to get your vote, and finally, or thirdly that you would know where I keep my books that I haven't rated yet and why you are sneaking about my room. That is fucked up. Seriously. It's like DoctorM fucked up, if he were in fact guilty of what we all deep down in our heart of hearts know he probably really did do, but which we like to fairly go ehhhhhhh, he might have or might not have like we are aging Jewish uncles being Talmudic about who took the last chocolate from the little dish near the front door, even though we can all see the chocolate stains all around the mouth of Moishe, the little lying fucker, who says not me, but we all know it is.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    The first two stories, "The Pagan Rabbi" and "Envy: Or, Yiddish in America" were fantastic, and a great introduction to Cynthia Ozick's writing style, characterization, and themes (take note, anyone who has patiently listened to me gush about her over the past several months). The final story, "Virility," is ALMOST as great. It stumbles a little with the ending--I don't want to give anything away. In between, there are four other stories, and they have their ups and downs. "The Dock-Witch" has gr The first two stories, "The Pagan Rabbi" and "Envy: Or, Yiddish in America" were fantastic, and a great introduction to Cynthia Ozick's writing style, characterization, and themes (take note, anyone who has patiently listened to me gush about her over the past several months). The final story, "Virility," is ALMOST as great. It stumbles a little with the ending--I don't want to give anything away. In between, there are four other stories, and they have their ups and downs. "The Dock-Witch" has great atmosphere and takes an interesting approach to an overdone theme (the shiftlessness of young men). "The Doctor's Wife" has interesting characters, though the ending is too quirkily expected. "The Butterfly and the Traffic Light" is a bizarre experiment, almost a creative non-fiction piece with an illustrative "story" tacked on. That one I probably need to reread. And "The Suitcase" was my least favorite of all. It was as smartly written as anything else she's done; it just felt purposeless. But Cynthia Ozick is one of the greatest American writers of the last 50 years, and The Pagan Rabbi and Envy are possibly the greatest short fiction she's written (other contenders: "An Education" and the Puttermesser stories). This collection is really hard to find, but no bother--just buy "The Collected Short Stories of Cynthia Ozick" and "The Puttermesser Papers". I've seen both many times at used book stores, and they have all of her best stories and novellas.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    An extraordinary collection of short stories. All of the stories were excellent but the title story "The Pagan Rabbi" was probably the best. It was about a rabbi who committed suicide but didn't leave a suicide note but a letter that was absolutely brilliant. My next favorite story was "Virility" about a man who wanted to be a poet but had no talent for it but suddenly became successful after discovering a source for his poems. Ozick's writing borders on genius. An extraordinary collection of short stories. All of the stories were excellent but the title story "The Pagan Rabbi" was probably the best. It was about a rabbi who committed suicide but didn't leave a suicide note but a letter that was absolutely brilliant. My next favorite story was "Virility" about a man who wanted to be a poet but had no talent for it but suddenly became successful after discovering a source for his poems. Ozick's writing borders on genius.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Natalie DC

    3 stars. "Virility" is by far my favorite. 3 stars. "Virility" is by far my favorite.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    I know Ozick is an amazing writer. Just at times, I find her stories too difficult to get into. I read this over several months, not my usual speed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    The Pagan Rabbi is an early collection of seven short stories—Ozick’s second published work of fiction, from 1971. The title story is about a bookseller whose books on mysticism are blamed for the suicide of a rabbi. The story begins, “When I heard that Isaac Kornfield, a man of piety and brains, had hanged himself in the public park, I put a token in the subway stile and journeyed out to see the tree.” The two men were friends of sorts, fellow students in rabbinical seminary, but not close exce The Pagan Rabbi is an early collection of seven short stories—Ozick’s second published work of fiction, from 1971. The title story is about a bookseller whose books on mysticism are blamed for the suicide of a rabbi. The story begins, “When I heard that Isaac Kornfield, a man of piety and brains, had hanged himself in the public park, I put a token in the subway stile and journeyed out to see the tree.” The two men were friends of sorts, fellow students in rabbinical seminary, but not close except in the way long history unites two people beyond the breaks in contact and communication—their fathers, both rabbis, were friends and rivals, a shared faith but different crises regarding it, and the narrator’s unexpressed love for Isaac’s wife. The rabbi, father of seven daughters, left no suicide note but something else, a long letter that describes a strange spiritual journey, which led to the widow’s accusation. The second story, “Envy, Or, Yiddish in America,” is about transplanted culture’s brittle battle for life, which contains aspects of intellectual civil war, as scholars and writers hurl rabid opinions in comic-tragic disputes about authenticity, heritage, status, and, of course, God and sex. “The Suitcase,” the third story, is about a German-American artist with a Jewish mistress and a visiting father who dislikes America, Jewish mistresses, and his son’s work. The fourth story is a new kind of urban myth. “The Dock Witch” comes to bon voyage parties of passenger ships despite the fact that she has no friends or family on the departing vessel. The story’s narrator works at shipping company that transports mainly goods and encounters the woman and soon joins her on her daily visits to departing ocean liners, beginning an odd and complicated relationship. The fifth story, and perhaps my favorite, was “The Doctor’s Wife.” The doctor has an incorrigibly irascible father and a batch of not well married sisters. All gatherings are contentious with intrigue and dissatisfaction. The doctor is a bit of normality among the comically unhappy family members who nonetheless are trying to settle him down and get him married. “The Butterfly and the Traffic Light” is an allegorical satire set in an undistinguished Midwestern college town that even when it tries to purchase some history fails. The town is pretty but bland and without the gravity of long and tragic history. A professor named Fishbein has a walking companion named Isobel to whom he pontificates while ogling the coeds and waxing elusively about the difference between caterpillars and butterflies. The final story, “Virility,” is a classic immigrant story blown to surreal bits. An Irish immigrant becomes a world famous poet without a lick of talent. The narrator is a newspaperman who is 106 and recalling this no longer famous poet’s life and dark secret. So: seven imaginative, satiric stories that are smart, rooted in cultural America (immigrants, academia, business, religion, cities, dissatisfaction, etc.), sharply written and gifted with richly contrarian characters and a perspective that, however steeped in recognizable traditions, is uniquely Ozick’s.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ярослава

    На відміну від її есеїстики - яку дуже люблю - в оповіданнях, чи бодай у цій збірці (втім, ранній) Озік шалено бракує елегантності й легкості. На одне оповідання - одна ідея (скажімо, "одні й ті ж вірші прочитуватимуть по-різному, залежно від того, якої статі, на читачеву думку, був автор тексту"). І оповідання висить на ідеї, самотнє й безформне, як пальто на вішаку. Зате стилістка вона чудова. Після перекладу її есеїстики в мене досі лишився рефлекс - щойно потрапляє до рук якась Озік, берися На відміну від її есеїстики - яку дуже люблю - в оповіданнях, чи бодай у цій збірці (втім, ранній) Озік шалено бракує елегантності й легкості. На одне оповідання - одна ідея (скажімо, "одні й ті ж вірші прочитуватимуть по-різному, залежно від того, якої статі, на читачеву думку, був автор тексту"). І оповідання висить на ідеї, самотнє й безформне, як пальто на вішаку. Зате стилістка вона чудова. Після перекладу її есеїстики в мене досі лишився рефлекс - щойно потрапляє до рук якась Озік, берися перекладати! То от пейзажна замальовка з цієї збірки - бо я люблю її пейзажні замальовки: "Єрусалим, те місто-фенікс, назвами вулиць не славиться. Як і Багдад, Копенгаген, Ріо де Жанейро, Камелот чи Атени; Пекін, Флоренція, Вавилон чи Санкт-Петербург. Шпилі, бані й сталеві плетива цих легендарних столиць постають перед нами на обрії за рівниною, на пагорбі чи в імлі, обнесені ровами й мурами міфу і древнього поголосу. Зведені з міді, срібла і злота, на камені кольору молока, у клечанні з тронів досконалих королів [...] Бульвари, вулиці, площі і п'яцци давніх міст ми не помічаємо, ми не любимо про них думати, вони - мов подряпини на гладкій емалі наших золотих міст; ми вже майже про них забули. У роздоріжжі краси нема - наші міста, як наші мрії, потрібні нам цілими. У містах без слави чи тих, де час іще не оселився, все інакше. Особливо в Америці. Кажуть, Бостон - наш Єрусалим; проте всі, хто там жили, знають: у Бостона є тільки половина історії. Почесті й честь, побожність, горді роди, Атенеум і симфонічний оркестр у Бостона є; але в нього немає трагічної традиції. Бостон ніколи не ридав."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    bought this last october almost purely for the combination of title & front & back cover, & picked it up after reading a curious only semi-revealing profile of ozick in the new york times magazine. the first two stories—the pagan rabbi & envy; or, yiddish in america—are complicated and punchy and have a sort of hard vivid quality to them that is both immediately striking & invites further mulling that i think i usually shorthand as 'sensational.' the rest, except perhaps the dock-witch, which i bought this last october almost purely for the combination of title & front & back cover, & picked it up after reading a curious only semi-revealing profile of ozick in the new york times magazine. the first two stories—the pagan rabbi & envy; or, yiddish in america—are complicated and punchy and have a sort of hard vivid quality to them that is both immediately striking & invites further mulling that i think i usually shorthand as 'sensational.' the rest, except perhaps the dock-witch, which i need to think a little bit more about, and parts of the butterfly and the traffic light (good things about cities & jerusalem but on the whole a weird couple strips of prose hanging loosely together), are self-conscious and disappointing. on another note about envy, and some of the stories, they felt like they wouldn't have been too out of place in a course i took on health & disease in jewish literature last winter—envy even references several of the obscure writers (leivik, edelshtat...) that we read. though what the course really taught me is that a good syllabus doesn't make a good course, and perhaps daydream syllabi in which you can slot themes so easily are meant to just be no more than that—fun exercises. it's why bookforum has a 'syllabus' feature. anyway, ozick still feels only semi-revealed to me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    English-language magical realism published in 1971, this collection of short stories by Cynthia Ozick deals largely with American Jews in the decade or so after the Holocaust. It's one of Ozick's early works and the only one of hers I've read. It's extremely well written in a slightly antique style. The overwrought inner agonies of the characters remind me of Russian and Eastern European fiction of the late 19th centuries. The fantastical and supernatural elements really spin my wheels, but the English-language magical realism published in 1971, this collection of short stories by Cynthia Ozick deals largely with American Jews in the decade or so after the Holocaust. It's one of Ozick's early works and the only one of hers I've read. It's extremely well written in a slightly antique style. The overwrought inner agonies of the characters remind me of Russian and Eastern European fiction of the late 19th centuries. The fantastical and supernatural elements really spin my wheels, but the jaundiced view of humanity keep me from wanting to read more of Ozick's work. Like some of those Russians, it's just too depressing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Because I had heard some business where she's highly critical of I.B. Singer, I did a general search and this book came up. I think the story "Envy" is her satire of Mr. Singer. I'm sure I could read an essay collection of hers, but she's one of those that I keep meaning to check out. I'm on the case... Just finished "Envy" terribly freaky story. Very sad--funny, but sad about the decline of Yiddish culture (kind of...). Had to return it to the library. I will probably resume again at a later date Because I had heard some business where she's highly critical of I.B. Singer, I did a general search and this book came up. I think the story "Envy" is her satire of Mr. Singer. I'm sure I could read an essay collection of hers, but she's one of those that I keep meaning to check out. I'm on the case... Just finished "Envy" terribly freaky story. Very sad--funny, but sad about the decline of Yiddish culture (kind of...). Had to return it to the library. I will probably resume again at a later date.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I hadn't really meant to read this, but when I looked at the first page, I thought the writing was arrestingly direct and good. But while there are moments of wonderful writing here, the stories as a whole felt overlong and tired. Finishing this book was a bit of a chore. I hadn't really meant to read this, but when I looked at the first page, I thought the writing was arrestingly direct and good. But while there are moments of wonderful writing here, the stories as a whole felt overlong and tired. Finishing this book was a bit of a chore.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

    "The more piety, the more skepticism. A religious man comprehends this. Superfluity, excess of custom and superstition would climb like a choking vine on the Fence of the Law if skepticism did not continually hack them away to make freedom for purity." The first two stories are masterful. "The more piety, the more skepticism. A religious man comprehends this. Superfluity, excess of custom and superstition would climb like a choking vine on the Fence of the Law if skepticism did not continually hack them away to make freedom for purity." The first two stories are masterful.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marisa James

    Intensely bizarre collection of short stories dealing with the most impossibly self-centered, neurotic characters... I enjoyed this, but had to read in small doses!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christina Cole

    Beautifully written, She seems to have such a way with picking the PERFECT words. "Pagan Rabbi" is absolutely enthralling as is "Virility". Beautifully written, She seems to have such a way with picking the PERFECT words. "Pagan Rabbi" is absolutely enthralling as is "Virility".

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yoshua

    Bitter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lora

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt Scott

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Marshall

  20. 4 out of 5

    Severine

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clark

  22. 5 out of 5

    Royce D

  23. 5 out of 5

    Denise

  24. 4 out of 5

    Corey Bowen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Duane

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathe

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  29. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christina

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