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More than words

September 19, 2004

To the Editor:

I am genuinely grateful to Michael Gorra for his insightful and stimulating review of my novel, "Heir to the Glimmering World" (Book Review, Sept. 5). I hope he will not think me niggling if I point out that a writer's ideas do not remain in place over decades; that it is not uncommon for old thoughts to be superseded by later reflection and correction; and that anyhow a ruminating essay makes a poor yardstick for untrammeled fiction (even fiction by the same writer). Finally, please allow me to assure any potential reader that my novel requires no jot or tittle of theological expertise, and that I believe the English language to be entirely sufficient to address, contain and sustain any thought and any imagining.

As for the "elusiveness" of a novel's meaning, here is an illuminating remark by James Wood: "Fiction's attention is toward what is tangible; yet it exists most effectively when its themes are unspoken.... Fiction's meaning is all that cannot be said." Mr. Gorra, I think, wants it to be said. Novelists want it to be felt.

Cynthia Ozick

New Rochelle, N.Y.


Michael Gorra replies:

I thank Cynthia Ozick for her courteous response to my review. She is of course right in what she says about the nature of fiction's appeal. It's just that this reader, at least, did not feel her new book to be quite untrammeled enough.

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