Cynthia Ozick’s New Novel

Cynthia Ozick’s New Novel
(Egypt Ministry of Antiquities via AP)

Given the vicissitudes of the present, it can be a relief to sink into a fictional past, even through the eyes of a beleaguered protagonist who doesn’t enjoy much of a future. Cynthia Ozick’s odd novella “Antiquities” is told by an aging narrator in 1949, as he looks back on his late-19th-century boyhood. But then, perhaps an elderly character nevertheless well her junior seems a spring chicken to this distinguished author. Astonishingly for a writer still in the game, this month Ozick turns 93. Retirement is for pikers.

Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie has come full circle. The onetime student at a Westchester boarding school called Temple Academy for Boys has returned to the campus as a retiree, now that the Anglican-influenced school has been converted into a home for its geriatric trustees. Petrie and his colleagues have been asked to contribute to the institution’s historical record by writing accounts of their experiences as Temple students — short accounts, thank you, no more than 10 pages. But we can infer early in this tale that our narrator thinks rather well of himself; the page count of his reflections runs to 179.

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