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Cynthia Ozick

  • It is true that money attracts; but much money repels.

  • History ... isn't simply what has happened. It's a judgment on what has happened.

  • What is hysteria if not fates' tears, too deep for thought?

  • Godlessness invariably produces vulgarity. Civilization is the product of belief.

  • The trouble with happiness is that it never notices itself.

  • To desire to be what one can be is purpose in life. There are no exterior forces. There are only interior forces. Who squanders talent praises death.

  • Time heals all things but one: Time.

  • Resentment is a communicable disease and should be quarantined.

  • He who cries, 'What do I care about universality? I only know what is in me,' does not know even that.

  • It is useless either to hate or to love truth — but it should be noticed.

  • Dedication to one's work in the world is the only possible sanctification. Religion in all its forms is dedication to Someone Else's work, not yours.

  • a. Critics: people who make monuments out of books. b. Biographers: people who make books out of monuments. c. Poets: people who raze monuments. d. Publishers: people who sell rubble. e. Readers: people who buy it.

  • Two things remain irretrievable: time and a first impression.

  • Death persecutes before it executes.

  • Old saws have no teeth.

  • Whoever mourns the dead mourns himself.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Envy; Or, Yiddish in America," The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories ()
  • All pity is self-pity.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Envy; Or, Yiddish in America," The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories ()
  • It is the function of a liberal university not to give right answers, but to ask right questions.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Women and Creativity," in Motive ()
  • We have had, alas, and still have, the doubtful habit of reverence. Above all, we respect things as they are.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Women and Creativity," in Motive ()
  • We are so placid that the smallest tremor of objection to anything at all is taken as a full-scale revolution. Should any soul speak up in favor of the obvious, it is taken as a symptom of the influence of the left, the right, the pink, the black, the dangerous. An idea for its own sake — especially an obvious idea — has no respectability.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Women and Creativity," in Motive ()
  • Paradise is only for those who have already been there.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Envy; Or, Yiddish in America," The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories ()
  • The engineering is secondary to the vision.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "The Hole/Birth Catalog," The First Ms. Reader ()
  • In saying what is obvious, never choose cunning. Yelling works better.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "We Are the Crazy Lady and Other Feisty Feminist Fables," in Ms. ()
  • Language makes culture, and we make a rotten culture when we abuse words.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "We Are the Crazy Lady and Other Feisty Feminist Fables," in Ms. ()
  • I'm not afraid of facts; I welcome facts but a congeries of facts is not equivalent to an idea. This is the essential fallacy of the so-called scientific mind. People who mistake facts for ideas are incomplete thinkers; they are gossips.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "We Are the Crazy Lady and Other Feisty Feminist Fables," in Ms. ()
  • What we think we are surely going to do, we don't do; and what we never intended to do, we may one day notice that we have done, and done, and done.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • foreword, Art and Ardor ()
  • Time at length becomes justice.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Truman Capote Reconsidered," Art and Ardor ()
  • I would distinguish between a visitor and a pilgrim: both will come to a place and go away again, but a visitor arrives, a pilgrim is restored. A visitor passes through a place; the place passes through the pilgrim.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Toward a New Yiddish," Art and Ardor ()
  • ... literature is an instrument of a culture, not a summary of it.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Toward a New Yiddish," Art and Ardor ()
  • The secular Jew is a figment; when a Jew becomes a secular person he is no longer a Jew.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Toward a New Yiddish," Art and Ardor ()
  • When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "The Riddle of the Ordinary," Art and Ardor ()
  • All politicians know that every 'temporary' political initiative promised as a short-term poultice stays on the books forever.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Literature and the Politics of Sex: A Dissent," Art and Ardor ()
  • To be any sort of competent writer one must keep one's psychological distance from the supreme artists.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "The Lesson of the Master," Art and Ardor ()
  • If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Helen Benedict, "A Writer's First Readers," The New York Times Book Review ()
  • Traveling is seeing; it is the implicity that we travel by.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Enchanters at First Encounter," in The New York Times ()
  • To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Tom Teicholz, "The Art of Fiction No. 95," The Paris Review ()
  • ... he started on the first page and finished on the last. He was not a skimmer or a sniffer; he read meticulously, as if, swimming, he were being filmed in slow motion.

  • Reality is as thin as paper and betrays with all its cracks its imitative character.

  • Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.

  • Awe consumes any brand that ignites it ...

  • After a certain number of years, our faces become our biographies. We get to be responsible for our faces.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Tom Teicholz, "The Art of Fiction No. 95," The Paris Review ()
  • I was taking a course with Lionel Trilling and wrote a paper for him with an opening sentence that contained a parenthesis. He returned the paper with a wounding reprimand: 'Never, never begin an essay with a parenthesis in the first sentence.' Ever since then, I've made a point of starting out with a parenthesis in the first sentence.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Tom Teicholz, "The Art of Fiction No. 95," The Paris Review ()
  • One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Tom Teicholz, "The Art of Fiction No. 95," The Paris Review ()
  • It seemed to Rosa Lublin that the whole peninsula of Florida was weighted down with regret. Everyone had left behind a real life.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Rosa," The Shawl ()
  • What we remember from childhood we remember forever — permanent ghosts, stamped, imprinted, eternally seen.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "The Shock of Teapots," Metaphor and Memory ()
  • Finally one tires / of so many spires.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "The 21st Cathedral of the Week," in The New York Times Magazine ()
  • Invention despoils observations, insinuation invalidates memory. A stewpot of bad habits, all of it — so that imaginative writers wind up, by and large, a shifty crew, sunk in distortion, misrepresentation, illusion, imposture, fakery.

  • ... real apprenticeship is ultimately always to the self; a writer's lessons are ineluctably internal.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Old Hand As Novice," Fame and Folly: Essays ()
  • In the compact between novelist and reader, the novelist promises to lie, and the reader promises to allow it.

  • ... very bright teeth as big and orderly as piano keys.

  • There's a paradox in rereading. You read the first time for rediscovery: an encounter with the confirming emotions. But you reread for discovery: you go to the known to figure out the workings of the unknown, the why of the familiar how.

    • Cynthia Ozick
  • The ordinary is the divine.

    • Cynthia Ozick
  • In real life wishing, divorced from willing, is sterile and begets nothing.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Morgan and Maurice: A Fairy Tale," Art and Ardor ()
  • Everybody inherits a past. And it glimmers either happily or miserably.

    • Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick, U.S. writer

(1928)