THE STORY BEGINS by Amos Oz

THE STORY BEGINS

Essays on Literature
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Therapy in the erotics of reading from one of Israel’s most cosmopolitan novelists and essayists. When Oz (Panther in the Basement, 1997, etc.) was in the seventh grade, a very businesslike nurse appeared to tell him and his school chums all about the procedures, complexities, and especially the dangers of sex. Her manner was grave, and, he recalls, she made no mention of pleasure. He draws a literary parallel: “And this is precisely what some of the literati are doing to us: they analyze everything ad nauseam, techniques, motifs, oxymorons and metonyms, allegory and connotation . . . Only the pleasure of reading do they castrate—just a bit’so it doesn’t get in the way.” Oz wants to return us to the eros of reading. To achieve his aim, he offers exemplary discussions of ten different novels and stories, including works by Theodor Fontane, Nikolai Gogol, Raymond Carver, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez, S.Y. Agnon, and others. He takes the problem of narrative beginnings as a focusing device and suggests that, at the beginning of any tale, a sort of contract is established between writer and reader. No doubt, this is more or less true, but he makes no particularly compelling case for it. Still, the idea works effectively as a heuristic device, allowing him to do what he does best: demonstrate the pleasure of reading, with vivid, brief explorations of all different sorts of beginnings. Oz’s sensitive readings show a way of taking fiction seriously as pleasure and then heightening that pleasure by exploring the different ways in which writers achieve meaning. Translator Bar-Tura renders Oz’s prose in powerful, simple, and evocative English. Oz writes with wonderful force of conviction in this urbane set of essays, and his own pleasure in both reading and writing is contagious.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100297-5
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999




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