This book, a collection of five stories, introduces us to Ruth Puttermesser, the overly-intellectual, overly-contemplative heroine of Cynthia Ozick's most recent novel, "The Puttermesser Papers." In the first story, Puttermesser is a down-and-out NYC lawyer hauled from firm to firm without much hope of success. When she's not working, she's daydreaming...rather, when she's not daydreaming, she's working. Puttermesser's most meaningful, most invigorating experiences occur inside her own head. She gets pep talks from a dead uncle, she creates a golem who serves as a housekeeper and campaign manager when she runs for city office. What's real, what isn't? The sentences twist and surprise; each passage is dense and filled with comic irony.
The title story, "Levitation," is about two writers, married to each other, who vow never to write about writers ("the forbidden act") or write about NYC ("the forbidden city"). A wonderful irony in itself. At a cocktail party they've thrown, Jewish guests levitate in the air; everyone else remains grounded, including the main character, who, up until that point, considered herself a convert to the faith. All of these stories are stories of ideas: the characters don't chatter mindlessly; rather, they possess, unlike many other literary characters, a high degree of self-awareness.
What really shines in this book, though, is Ozick's love of L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E. You'll find no minimalism here. Like James and Nabokov, Ozick is dead-set on compressing as much detail as possible into a single sentence. The result is a narrative style of such elegance and originality, you'll be compelled to read these fictions allowed.