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To ask other readers questions about The Puttermesser Papers , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Puttermesser Papers. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. As you read this review, please bear in mind that The Puttermesser Papers really defies summarization. What I offer here can only be the most impoverished of overviews. The book must be read! Ruth Puttermesser is a woman, an attorney, living alone in New York City. Her mother, retired with her father to Florida, writes to ask Puttermesser to fly down to check out an acquaintance's newly divorced CPA son.
Her title was Assistant Corporation Counsel. She develops periodontal disease and fears the surgical exposure of her bones. Her presence creates uncomfortable contrasts for those who are less so. Perhaps inevitably she is demoted and hidden away in Taxation. There she writes snappy, indignant letters to her boss. Commissioner Alvin Turtleman, has forced a fine civil servant of honorable temperament, with experience both wide and impassioned, out of her job.
I am that civil servant. Without a hearing, without due process She does not receive a reply. A nice little overview of the golem in history follows. She is taken to work at the cumbrous municipal office building where she begins to type. She produces a Plan. The murder rate plummets. Sobbing muggers walk into precinct houses, arms raised. Vast gardens thrive all over the city. But now Rappoport has returned. Soon Rappoport is sexually exhausted, raw.
He leaves the city with a limp. Xanthippe, however, having tasted human lust, runs amok as it is historically within the purview of golems to do. Their marriages break up. They move to Florida. They enter monasteries. And just as gradually the city morphs back into the crime-ridden dystopia that it was before our heroine took office. Suffice it to say that Puttermesser does not seek reelection.
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She takes a year off. Puttermesser, her name means butterknife in German, is lonely without anything to occupy her time. Puttermesser understandably pines for her George Lewes. His reenactments are reduced to postcard size and sold in stationers shops. It must be read. Then Puttermesser is visited by her Muscovite cousin.
Lidia — a cynical, mercenary young woman — has seized on her New York connection in order to make money. It is the era of Gorbachev and perestroika. Lidia comes to New York laden with all sorts of tchotchkes: Lenin as a boy pins, Russian nested dolls, etc. She finds a naive fellow she calls Pyotr, a man utterly without guile, whom she promptly seduces. Puttermesser has installed Lidia on a sofa bed in her living room. Soon, Lidia, having made her pile so she can marry Volodya, exits. Peter is shattered. The novel has been rendered in the form of interconnected stories which were previously published independently.
Yet together they make an indissoluble whole. There is only one other such ear I have ever come across in my wide reading and that belongs to Martin Amis. Both writers have this innate zingy facility with language, both use vocabulary as punchlines, and both have unerring narrative instincts.
Both also, it might be said, though their respective subject matters differ greatly, put enormous loving care into their work. Like Cather, Cynthia Ozick is an essential American novelist. So far her work has been egregiously overlooked by the mainstream. I have the pleasure of robustly recommending it. View all 17 comments. Achieving a Real Sense of Trust and Distrust Whatever else Ozick aspires to do, she studiously avoids making the same mistake as Flaubert if, indeed, he had erred, as alleged, which is questionable.
She works hard on verisimilitude and plausibility. She requires the reader's trust to achieve her purpose. As a result, there's a beautifully crafted sense of realism in the first chapter or episode in particular. Blurred Distinction On the other hand, what isn't anticipated by the epigraph is that the realism is soon joined by a Postmodern sensibility that works its way into the narrative extremely subtly, almost within the space of a sentence.
Eden is equipped above all with timelessness, so Puttermesser will read at last all of Balzac, all of Dickens, all of Turgenev and Dostoevsky her mortal self has already read all of Tolstoy and George Eliot However, suddenly, she enters a world in which reality, fiction, fable and myth blur into one, by way of Ozick's expert objective, external description and careful attention to both outward appearance and inward perspective.
Ozick nevertheless adds a touch of the comic to her metafiction: "Puttermesser is not to be examined as an artifact but as an essence. Who made her? No one cares. Puttermesser is henceforth to be presented as given. She uses her character to impersonate mythology. Creator and creation continually struggle to become one. Via creativity, the creator endeavours to become one with all creation. Yet, there is a sense in which this whole enterprise is egocentric.
Puttermesser is a flawed character, and so therefore is her creation. Just as she embraces myth, she removes herself, consciously or unconsciously, from reality or, at least, some version of it. She is duped by the duplicate. She remains a copyist and somehow inauthentic a theme seemingly reprised from William Gaddis' "The Recognitions". The novel consists of five episodes set and actually written as connected short stories decades apart. The second and longest episode features a golem called "Xanthippe", named after one of Socrates' wives. For a while, it allows Ozick to explore Puttermesser's repressed desires: "I know everything you know.
I am made of earth but also I am made out of your mind I am the first female golem I will ameliorate your woe. Xanthippe acts as Puttermesser's amanuensis, but fails to help her "become what she was intended to become. The novel, both before and after Xanthippe, seems rather to be a caution that isolation from our family, society or culture can undermine the prospect of happiness.
Without family, without these papers, there would be nothing to remind us that Puttermesser had ever existed, nothing to document or recognise the beauty of her short, mortal life, even if it was only in the minds of writer and reader. This is not just a personal tale, but potentially an allegory. How many people, how many families, how many communities, how many stories were irretrievably lost in the Holocaust?
These papers, these fictions are the vehicle for something authentic, something of value to transcend death from generation to generation, notwithstanding the constant threat of ephemerality. Whether or not any of us end up in Paradise, the future is better for the fragments that Ozick has located and preserved. Must be brilliant, unpretentious, passionate, creative.
Prefer Ph. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write. Box no. Like I care. View all 14 comments. Ohhhh life has no meaning and god has no meaning and there is no love and dreams are useless and heaven is hell and no one understaaaaands because you're all sheeeep waaaaaaahhhh. Pure nihilistic drivel. I loved the first page, which is why I bought it, but it was all downhill from there.
This book felt like listening to that loud annoying guy at the coffeeshop trying to get girls to go home with him by spouting philosophy, only worse. What's really clever is that if you don't like it, others ca Ohhhh life has no meaning and god has no meaning and there is no love and dreams are useless and heaven is hell and no one understaaaaands because you're all sheeeep waaaaaaahhhh.
The Puttermesser Papers | novel by Ozick | ukyrelazok.tk
What's really clever is that if you don't like it, others can say you're just not enlightened enough, poor you. The only part I enjoyed was the Russian cousin who played everyone. View 2 comments. Apr 10, Margaret rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Passionate readers of literary fiction.
The protagonist, Ruth Puttermesser, lives to read. She, like Ozick herself, is an expert on mystical Judaism; Greek philosophy; European literatures, languages, and history; contemporary New York City; and so much more. She spends her life outside the firm eating bon-bons and reading the great works of literature and philosophy that she finds in the Crotona Park Branch of the NYC public library. The same readers, especially if they are of a certain age, also recognize the intellectual children of the Jewish working class who were brought up to value continuous study as the most revered way of life.
Puttermesser leaves the law firm and goes to work for the Department of Receipts and Disbursemnets. Again Puttermesser finds herself doing all the work while those above her find themselves caught up in internecine quarrels which require them to have endless lunches in fine restaurants with allies. This sort of storyline could get tiresome, and Ozick veers off in a completely different direction. The two argue about whether Xantippe was the first female golem in much the same manner two Yeshivah boys might quibble over arcane passages of Talmud.
Xantippe does more than quibble; she manages to get Puttermesser elected as the mayor of NYC, after which all corrupt commissioners, etc. But like all good golems, Xanitppe turns on her creator. NYC is no longer Eden. Later sections of the book there are five, all of which were previously published separately in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Salmagundi bring a Russian cousin, Lidia, to New York, whom Puttermesser welcomes and tries to assist as Lidia seeks to make her fortune.
Nothing happens as you might expect, and we find ourselves at a huge party where the intellects behind two of the great Jewish contemporary magazines find themselves in near mortal combat. Another section introduces us to Rupert Rabeeno, who at forty is twenty years younger than the then sixtyish Puttermesseer. The two take up reading to each other the life and letters of George Eliot. The last section of the book is the most bizarre, the most original, and the most upsetting. In fact, despite all the cleverness and laughter throughout the book, this is a deeply despairing book.
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As I read I would occasionally stand outside the narrative and ask myself what was keeping me reading. I assure you, there is no good news between these book covers; only the most eloquently crafted ideas and imaginings of a most brilliant literary master. Ozick herself most likely would tell us that that is not enough, even as we cannot stop ourselves from reading. View 1 comment. Cynthia Ozick writes some truly beautiful prose. Her metaphors and turns of phrase are relentlessly unexpected and have the organic majesty of a garden gone wild. The book compiles five unconnected episodes from the life of Ruth Puttermesser, an introverted grotesquely over-educated Jewish civil servant, which Ozick originally wrote and published as individual short stories in several magazines - perhaps a literary alter ego?
Each story shows us Puttermesser in a different decade of her life, st Cynthia Ozick writes some truly beautiful prose. Each story shows us Puttermesser in a different decade of her life, starting in her thirties and escalating into her seventies. A sort of character study, gives a taste of what is to come. I particularly enjoyed how she portrayed the discrepancy a minority member feels between the way other people see you a clumsy Frankenstein's monster of movie references and mythology and the way you know yourself to be rather ordinary - and how you sometimes secretly wish some of the mythology surrounding the minority you belong to applied to you, if only to make you as different - and consequently interesting - as others suppose you are.
Puttermesser Paired was possibly my favourite, a heartbreaking work of art imitating life imitating art imitating life. About George Eliot. Puttermesser and the Muscovite Cousin fell a bit flat for me, I think because it focused more on the titular Muscovite cousin and Puttermesser was relegated to the role of observer or unmoved mover. Still, has some worthwhile commentary on the brainy magazine industry that made me cringe and laugh.
Puttermesser in Paradise is exactly that. So, um, I really don't know what to say. It's like that perfect thing that breaks your heart and then. I know everyone says Moby Dick is the great American novel, but I think this might be it instead. View all 3 comments. May 26, Isaac rated it it was amazing.
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After all, the octogenarian reportedly sleeps in past ten, is armed with a catastrophic wit, and once made an author so upset he stormed out of his own apartment. And she probably wouldn't look so bad on white wicker. Thing is, Ozick is heir to the strain of Yiddish mystical-realist literature that once roiled through Isaac Bashevis Singer's If Rose, Blanche, Dorothea and Sophia had an extra spare, somewhere in the back of their Miami bungalow, Cynthia Ozick could've been the fifth Golden Girl. Thing is, Ozick is heir to the strain of Yiddish mystical-realist literature that once roiled through Isaac Bashevis Singer's half-hysterical Polish villages.
Whereas Singer focused more on horny love triangles in his later writing after he resettled in the US, Ozick's grasp on the dybbuks remains firm. Follow Ruth Puttermesser through stories culled from the New Yorker over the years: as the unwed lawyer reconciles her unproductive time at a goyish firm, as she transforms New York into a post-Giuliani Garden of Babylon, as she accidentally creates a dangerous, lascivious golem from her potting soil. It's an excellent, immersive, heady read for any friend of Kafka. A series of short fiction stories around the life and misadventures of one Ruth Puttermesser.
It is a patchwork biography, thick with literary and mythical allegory - see the Golem of New York, herself as George Eliot, visits from a Soviet alter ago, and visions of Paradise. Shelves: reality-check , antidote-think-twice-read , r-goodreads , reviewed , pure-power-of-gr , person-of-reality , r , antidote-think-twice-all , 1-read-on-hand , 3-star.
Golems and copylifers and Soviet relatives, oh my, but with the same old names being raised to the sky and the same old slurs being thrown around there's black Jewish people, y'know , following the uncommon trail of Jewish womanhood as United States assimilationist becomes an exercise in suspending disbelief in the melti 2.
Golems and copylifers and Soviet relatives, oh my, but with the same old names being raised to the sky and the same old slurs being thrown around there's black Jewish people, y'know , following the uncommon trail of Jewish womanhood as United States assimilationist becomes an exercise in suspending disbelief in the melting pot, rendering most of the entertainment null and void. I could've forgone looking for entertainment and instead relished the "deep thinking" of it all, but you can only refer to Mary Ann Evans as George Eliot so many times before the academic aspirations become a little dull.
Couple that with an ending whose effort at making a contrast didn't render one half of it any less of a piece of gore porn, and this reader was left cold. I really don't have that much else to say about this. Maybe it's the string of lackluster reads I've been trudging through lately including a favorite that's swiftly becoming a former , or a being in the kind of transitory state that, thanks to capitalism, is running forevermore in order to stay perfectly still.
Mayhaps even the weather is to blame, for however much my area desperately needs rain that my aesthetic sensibilities prefer the breadbasket of the US is currently facing a century of doubt , there's little I can do about the science of biological depression, hereditary as well as seasonal. This has made for a current trend in reading where the length of time between when I was first convinced to add the book to my shelves and the now when I finally pick them up seems to have negatively impacted more reading experiences than not. The politics of it all means Ozick technically qualifies as a woman of color, although it's probable that the histories of white supremacy in Europe and the US need a tad more reconciliation before international conventions start translating into papers and subsequent Tumblr papers.
Other than that, I'm rather sapped when it comes to bookish commentary. I just hope I pick a winner for the currently reading shelf sometime soon. Jul 13, Stephen Goldenberg rated it really liked it. Key events in the life and afterlife of Ruth Puttermesser, a fairly unremarkable jewish New Yorker are the subject of this strange novel.
The most compelling section veers off into magical realism a genre I'm not particularly fond of when she creates a female golem from the earth in her houseplant pots. The golem becomes her amanuensis and is so success ful in promoting Puttermesser that she is elected Mayor of New York. During her brief period in charge, she turns the city into a kind of pa Key events in the life and afterlife of Ruth Puttermesser, a fairly unremarkable jewish New Yorker are the subject of this strange novel. During her brief period in charge, she turns the city into a kind of paradise before it all falls apart.
In another section, she forms a relationship with a much younger man who 'copies' old master paintings and then sells his versions as postcards. Their relationship also becomes a copy of George Eliot's with both George Lewes and her much younger husband, Johnny Cross. I find it hard to put my finger on why I liked the novel. I can only label it a 'marmite' book - most readers will either love it or hate it. Jan 14, James rated it really liked it Shelves: american-lit , lps.
While The Puttermesser Papers is considered a novel, it could also be considered a collection of short stories, as each of the five "chapters" were published previously in various magazines before being brought together as this book. However, the book has the coherence of a traditional novel, and can easily be read from front to back as one continuous tale. The story chronicles the life of the imaginary Ruth Puttermesser, an intelligent Jewish woman who lives in New York City.
Each chapter chron While The Puttermesser Papers is considered a novel, it could also be considered a collection of short stories, as each of the five "chapters" were published previously in various magazines before being brought together as this book. Each chapter chronicles the fulfillment of a desire, whether on earth or in Paradise, but each seems in the end to bring new pain.
Golems and soul mates betray our Puttermesser. Edenic love fades away. The beauty of the prose and the challenges facing the heroine maintain the reader's interest. Cynthia Ozick is a wonderful writer who is fun to read. Loved the first half, especially the golem story. Ruth Puttermesser unwittingly fantasized into existence a daughter golem, and finished sculpting it with her hands. This was terrific writing. The second half sagged badly for me. By now both the story and I had split far apart in widely divergent directions, and pretty much weren't communicating. Jun 11, Boris rated it it was amazing.
Ozick is such a great writer. Puttermesser is Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, an intelligent, accomplished New York city woman doomed to a bland and doubting dissatisfaction despite her achievements. Ozick provides one of the most believable descriptions of heaven I have ever read. I'm hoping heaven is as described by C. Lewis in "The Last Battle. Well, this was a strange book; I hated the ending and in fact didn't actually finish. My recommendation: don't even start it. Certainly don't finish if you don't have a strong stomach.
Jul 19, Cooper Cooper rated it it was amazing. She is urban New York and preoccupied with the Jewish experience, and her style and humor, like those of Singer and Bellow, have a Yiddish flavor. Heavy perfumes float. Has Rappoport journeyed to mysterious islands to offer the golem these lethargic scents, these attars of weighty drooping petals? But she is full of imagination and very good. This is a very good novel, fast-paced, imaginative, satiric, metaphoric and spiced with bits of history and contemporary events.
Intellectual fun. But Puttermesser discovered that in City life all rumors are true. Putative turncoats are genuine turncoats. All whispered knifings have happened: officials reputed to be about to topple, topple. So far Puttermesser had lasted through two elections, seeing the powerful become powerless and the powerless inflate themselves overnight, like gigantic winds, to suck out the victory of the short run.
The early fits of innovation subsided, and gradually the old way of doing things crept back, covering everything over, like grass, as if the building and its workers were together some inexorable vegetable organism with its own laws of subsistence. Ah, how this idea glowed for Puttermesser! The civic reforms of Prague—the broad crannied city of Prague, Prague distinguished by numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, masts and spires! The clock-tower of the Jewish Community House, the lofty peaked and chimneyed roof of the Altneuschul! All that manifold urban shimmer choked off by evil, corruption, the blood libel, the strong dampened hearts of the wicked politicos.
The Great Rabbi Judah Loew had undertaken to create his golem in an unenlightened year, the dream of America just unfolding…. Old delicate Prague, swept and swept of sin, giving birth to the purified daylight, the lucent genius, of New York! However, I can't separate my ex post view of it from the reason I chose to read it in the first place. The titular character, Puttermesser, seemed from the blurb like someone I could very much relate to.
She is a fairly solitary bookworm who works diligently in the public sector until arbitrarily made redundant. She appears to have no interest in romance and sex 'The Puttermesser Papers' is an original and well-written novel, albeit with a disjointed feeling as it is split into several novellas. She appears to have no interest in romance and sex, although she seeks a meeting of minds, or ideal friendship. At first I found it very refreshing to encounter such a character, as women of this nature are vanishingly rare in literature.
Anyway, this novella has some well-observed moments, especially around the erotic frustrations of middle age, but it is too literary a conceit too mechanically played out. And indeed, Ozick depicts a kind of complicity between the two systems, which both disparage the metaphysical and leave only appetite in its place. At the same time, Ozick effectively mocks the phony metaphysics of the left-liberals who want to make a mascot of Lidia, their New Age selfishness their journal is called Shekhina —I suppose Tikkun is the real-world butt of the joke and total disconnection from the oppressed they claim to champion.
This is a masterpiece of political comedy and irresolvable irony to put next to Turgenev and Dostoevsky—and so economical, all in 40 pages! Puttermesser is a kind of Quixote, an ineffectual idealist whom we love more for her very ineffectualness. Further evidence for this thesis comes when we learn that Puttermesser has merely fantasized some of what we have learned about her in prior stories. Because every glory in paradise is both timeless and transient, which means that all its sorrows are equally unending.
The imagination, therefore, offers no redemption, only the endless repetition of what already exists. The hellish paradise with which the book concludes merely reveals that earlier paradise to also have been hell: greedy and puerile and devoid of higher purpose. Paradise as a kind of fiction: infinite and inadequate—idolatrous. What do the sports of imagination avail us? Can they assuage suffering? Exegetical onomastic Puttermesser! She was thinking of Paradise, yes, but because the earthly and the heavenly are so interlocked one into the other she was also thinking about how names have their destiny, how they drive whoever holds or beholds them.
For instance: the poet Wordsworth giving exact value for each syllable. Or Mann himself—Man, Mankind, seeking the origins of human character in Israelitish prehistory. And James the aristocratic Jacobite, pretender to the throne. Bellow fanning fires; Updike fingering apertures; Oates wildly sowing; Roth wroth. And so on. Puttermesser: no more cutting than a butterknife.
Because what, after all, can the imagination without limits really accomplish for reality? All fictions and fictionists are just butterknives in a world of cutting edges. A sour note to end on, comedy of a bitter and Swiftian kind, though perhaps only so that we may recognize the necessity of belief as opposed to imagination. Ozick is one of the few contemporary writers to understand what is really at stake in fiction, in modernity, in the whole adventure of an ungrounded life, an untethered morality, a self without bounds.
She is colder than Eliot, to be sure; but then modernity is so much further along, the consolations fewer and fewer.