Dictation, by Cynthia Ozick (7 August − 13 August)

This is a book of four short stories (less than 50 pages each) that weren’t really connected in any way, as I thought they were going to be when I picked up the book.

The first is about the amanuenses (typists, basically) of Henry James and Joseph Conrad. James’s girl has a plot to hatch, and by golly she’s going to seduce every girl she needs to to get it done. No, really.

The second is about a bit actor who gets a leading role but has to change himself to do it, and oh, also he’s being sort of stalked by the father of the woman who wrote the play he’s in. Hmm.

The third is about an American writer type who goes off to a conference in Italy and gets himself married to the chambermaid four days later. This one I understood the least.

The final story is the one I enjoyed the most; it’s about a girl who, through her mother and her mother’s crazy universal-language-loving cousin, learns a lot about lies and deception.

My problem with the set was really that the stories were a bit too literary — they reminded me of trying to decipher Hemingway and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Rating: 5/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2008)

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