The impetus for Mark Krupnick’s lifelong study of the Jewish literary intelligentsia of New York, was “to discover how persons like [him]self — Jewish, of immigrant origins, living chiefly in their heads — contrived to form a self-identity through their reading and in their writing.” In this collection, Krupnick examines the “deep places of the imagination,” a phrase he borrows from Lionel Trilling, to investigate and expose the “inner lives” of Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Lionel Trilling, Saul Bellow, and Geoffrey Hartman, to name a few. His essays echo his objective and result in some of the most original rhetorical conversations to date.
Krupnick’s essays are first person channels of conversation supported by textual evidence and close readings. Readers need only examine the essay entitled “Cynthia Ozick: Embarrassments,” to engage in Krupnick’s critical conversation and analysis of Ozick’s work. Long a proponent of her antiidolatry position and fictional focus on “Jewishness,” here Krupnick reconsiders and argues that Ozick’s deepest places of the imagination reveal herself as a woman and as her main subject. Even more, Krupnick illustrates Ozick’s self-conscious concern with embarrassment. Not surprisingly, the thread of humiliation and embarrassment appears in several of Krupnick’s essays.
Perhaps because he too experienced humiliation and embarrassment as a Jew, as an academic, and as a sufferer of Lou Gehrig’s disease, this collection is socio-culturally reflective. Although Krupnick died of ALS in March 2003, his profound insight remains within the pages of these essays.