The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick: A shortish post about a short book

Cover image Cynthia Ozick’s The Puttermesser Papers was one of those books that made me think I’d hit gold – an interesting author with a nice long backlist – so I was delighted to see that Atlantic were reissuing The Messiah of Stockholm, dubbed her masterpiece, particularly as it’s about literature.

Lars is the Monday book reviewer at the Morgontörn. An orphan, he thinks he’s the son of Polish author Bruno Schulz and when not reading obscure Eastern European novels for review or otherwise spends much of his time at Mrs Eklund’s bookshop. When she tells him his sister has come to the shop with a manuscript of Schulz’s lost work The Messiah he is both outraged and intrigued – how can there be a sister, and how can she be in possession of the manuscript not him. What ensues is an unmasking, disillusion and reinvention which leaves Lars liberated from obsession but puzzling over what has gone quite literally up in smoke.

Ozick’s writing is witty – her satirical portrayal of book reviewers is particularly amusing – and her exploration of literary obsession imaginative. It’s a very clever book but although I enjoyed much of the writing some of it felt a little over written as if playing to the literary crowds.

I spotted this post today reporting that 71% of holiday makers turn their back on ebooks filling their suitcases with paperbacks. Many are keen to leave technology at home, apparently,  preferring the feeling of a book in their hands not to mention avoiding the horror of dropping your ereader in the pool and watching your entire collection of holiday reading sinking to the bottom. It was also a pleasure to see that readers prefer recommendations from other readers rather than what they regard as the ‘plain dull’ (15%) or ‘too stereotyped’ (33%) suggestions generated by algorithms. Amen to that.

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