The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel
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With dashing originality and in prose that sings like an entire choir of sirens, Cynthia Ozick relates the life and times of her most compelling fictional creation. Ruth Puttermesser lives in New York City. Her learning is monumental. Her love life is minimal (she prefers pouring through Plato to romping with married Morris Rappoport). And her fantasies have a disconcerting tendency to come true - with disastrous consequences for what we laughably call "reality."
Puttermesser yearns for a daughter and promptly creates one, unassisted, in the form of the first recorded female golem. Laboring in the dusty crevices of the civil service, she dreams of reforming the city - and manages to get herself elected mayor. Puttermesser contemplates the afterlife and is hurtled into it headlong, only to discover that a paradise found is also paradise lost. Overflowing with ideas, lambent with wit, The Puttermesser Papers is a tour de force by one of our most visionary novelists.
"The finest achievement of Ozick's career... It has all the buoyant integrity of a Chagall painting." -San Francisco Chronicle
"Fanciful, poignant... so intelligent, so finely expressed that, like its main character, it remains endearing, edifying, a spark of light in the gloom." -The New York Times
"A crazy delight." -The New York Time Book Review
THE PUTTERMESSER PAPERS Fiction by Cynthia Ozick: Foreign Bodies Dictation Heir to the Glimmering World The Puttermesser Papers The Shawl The Messiah of Stockholm The Cannibal Galaxy Levitation: Five Fictions Bloodshed and Three Novellas The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories Trust First published in the United States of America in 1997 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. This edition published in Great Britain in 2014 by Atlantic Books, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd. Copyright � Cynthia
Independents for Socratic and Prophetic Idealism—ISPI for short. A graphic artist is hired to devise a poster. It shows an apple tree with a serpent in it. The S in ISPI is the serpent. Puttermesser has promised to transform the City of New York into Paradise. She has promised to cast out the serpent. On Election Day, Malachy (“Matt”) Mavett, the incumbent, is routed. Of the three remaining candidates, two make poor showings. Puttermesser is triumphant. Puttermesser is now the Mayor of the City
“Oh please don’t trouble,” Puttermesser said each time. Thereafter Lidia didn’t. She left the lids of her cream jars on the bathtub ledge. She left her dirty dishes on the kitchen table. She left her wet towels on the living-room credenza. It soon came to Puttermesser that her cousin, though spurning atheism, was otherwise a perfected Soviet avatar: she did nothing that was not demanded. Released, she went straight to the television and its manifold enchantments: cars, detergents, toothpaste,
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. Put her back into Receipts and Disbursements, among office Jews and patronage collectors. While winter dusk blackens the Brooklyn Bridge, let us hear her opinion about the taxation of exempt properties. The bridge is not the harp Hart Crane said it was in his poem. Its staves are prison bars. The women clerks, Yefimova, Korolova, Akulova, Arkhipova,
dorms were mostly empty, he explained: everyone had gone home for New Year’s, and the little group of philosophers would have the whole campus nearly to themselves. It wouldn’t all be High Thought—in one of the halls there were skis and sleds ready for use. It was instantly clear that Emil was the organizer. Puttermesser got off the bus with cramped legs and a full bladder. Wherever she turned, the ground was white. The low college buildings peeped out of the snow like miniature Swiss chalets.