2008: 106. The Din in the Head

“When Susan Sontag died in the winter of 2004 - at seventy-one, far too soon for her powers to have been exhausted or her intellect slaked - she left a memorable and mottled trail.”

The Din in the Head, Cynthia Ozick

Blog? What Blog??  Once again, I fell off the face of the earth, at least the blogging earth - sorry for disappearing.  This whole “having a baby and trying to get ready for him” thing is eating a bit into my time at the computer.  And my backlog is getting longer, and soon it’ll be all, “I guess I read this book, I have no memory of it” and WOE IS ME. :)

Wow, I guess not sleeping well is making me melodramatic.  Imagine how I will be in October when Nate actually gets here!!  Anyway, enough of me, off to the books!

This was my 800 book in the Dewey decimal game.  I picked it up because I had recently read a really interesting book of cultural/literary criticism about women writers,* and was in the mood for some more stuff in the same vein.  In fact, I actually picked up two books of literary criticism, so watch this space.  This book is by Cynthia Ozick, who is one of those people that I hear about in the New York Review of Books, but had never really read anything by before, and so grabbed this.  I thought it was a mixed bag.  The pieces that were actually about a specific literary topic were generally pretty interesting.  I particularly liked her essay on Helen Keller, which discussed what role, if any Keller has in our current culture, beyond being a person of whom we have heard.  Ozick talks about Keller’s miraculous ability to learn how to communicate, and her writing, which has drawn reactions from miraculous to being little more than the prattle of (for lack of a better term) a trained monkey.**  And Ozick writes insightfully on the role Annie Sullivan played in Keller’s life (from essentially giving up her whole life to be Keller’s companion, and going through Radcliffe with her - and not getting a degree herself).  Her other pieces about literary topics - particularly more classic topics - are equally interesting.

On the other hand, I found her topics that touch on more modern topics to be too curmudgeonly, particularly when she gets on the topic of modern scholarship, and how the academy is not just focusing on the classics, but is looking at more eclectic topics.  I mean, it isn’t that that I think there is such great value in studying the meaning of soap operas, or whatever nonsense, but it made Ozick come across as such an old cranky fuddy-duddy, that it left a bad taste in my mouth.  And, unfortunately, these essays were all at the back of the book, so that I ended up thinking I hadn’t really enjoyed it that much.  But, in fact, I did like the earlier essays quite a bit (p.s. editors - maybe you could have mixed up the fuddy duddy stuff a bit throughout), so if you like literary criticism, I would highly recommend the book, as long as you can either stomach fuddy-duddy, or just skip those parts.


*But haven’t blogged about it yet - this was a library book, so I had to get it back, so things are all non-linear up in here.  So po-mo!


**Particularly when she wrote about color, or what things look like, given that she could not see.


Date/Place Completed: 7/30/08; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Book Resolution/Dewey Decimal Project (809 099D)

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017