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The Puttermesser papers by Cynthia Ozick

The Puttermesser papers (1997)

by Cynthia Ozick

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I don't know why I'm coming back to this like over a decade later, but I remember reading this in high school and thinking, "What the f*** did I just read???" It was real and then it was fantasy...and I had no idea what any of it meant.

I was, however, fascinated by the idea of a golem, which was new to me at the time. In any case, I should like to give this one another read and see what I think of it now. ( )
  TM_White | Jan 5, 2019 |
Meh. I think this book is smarter than I am. And it may have taught me a vocabulary word or two. But I didn't enjoy it at all, and last night, finally reaching the last section (Puttermesser in Paradise), I read a few pages and did the unthinkable---I put it down with less than 20 pages left, and with no intention of reading to the end. This "novel" consists of five sections, each of which seems to stand alone, and to have nothing much to do with the others beyond the common character of Ruth Puttermesser. When we meet Ruth, she is a middle aged lawyer stuck in a dull bureaucratic job in the City of New York. After some political shuffling she ends up buried even deeper in the dusty files, on the clear path to termination. Her married lover walks out on her because she would rather read Socrates than frolic in bed when she knows their time together is limited. One night she subconsciously creates a golem from the dirt in her many potted plants. This section was a bit of fun of the magical realism variety, and although I couldn't warm up to Ruth, I thought the book might be going somewhere interesting as her fortunes rose and fell (possibly only in her imagination) with the machinations of her supernatural creation. But the next section took Ruth into a peculiar relationship with a much younger man, a relationship she attempted to mold into a recreation of that between George Eliot and George Lewes. The results were as predictably disastrous as releasing a golem in New York City had been. And this is where I really should have cut my losses and moved on. I continued to dislike Ruth, in the sense that there is nothing likeable about her, not that she is offensive or wicked or stupid; she's just an unfocused, over-educated bore. I also disliked that the author refers to her primarily as "Puttermesser", although it does describe her rather well---a butter knife, utilitarian, but useless, really. The separate parts, which I believe were all first published individually (each section a "paper"), fail to coalesce into a whole for me. Granted there are many allusions I'm missing the point of, my grasp of ancient history and mythology being slight, and naturally I cannot blame the author for that. But what was she getting at? What's it all for? The book is meant to be "comic in tone", apparently. While a couple bits of the golem story were amusing, overall I didn't see much humor in it, particularly in the final section as Ruth faces a distinctly unfunny end to her life on earth.

The book was a National Book Award finalist; it's on a list of 101 Great Jewish novels and the New York Times Best Books of the Year list. It didn't work for me. Your mileage may vary significantly. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Oct 26, 2017 |
A series of short stories with Ruth Puttermesser as its main character. Funny at times and serious at others and also quite profound. A reader should be well read because of all the references, mostly to classic novels and writers, the beginner will miss a lot of these. ( )
  charlie68 | Sep 3, 2016 |
Loved the first half, especially the golem story. Ruth Puttermesser unwittingly fantasized into existence a daughter golem, and finished sculpting it with her hands. This was terrific writing. I think I would like it way more, on a whole different level, if I knew anything at all about Jewish religion/culture. The second half sagged badly for me. By now both the story and I had split far apart in widely divergent directions, and pretty much weren't communicating. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Key events in the life (and afterlife) of Ruth Puttermesser, a fairly unremarkable jewish New Yorker are the subject of this strange novel. The most compelling section veers off into magical realism (a genre I'm not particularly fond of) when she creates a female golem from the earth in her houseplant pots. The golem becomes her amanuensis and is so success ful in promoting Puttermesser that she is elected Mayor of New York. During her brief period in charge, she turns the city into a kind of paradise before it all falls apart. In another section, she forms a relationship with a much younger man who 'copies' old master paintings and then sells his versions as postcards. Their relationship also becomes a copy of George Eliot's with both George Lewes and her much younger husband, Johnny Cross.
I find it hard to put my finger on why I liked the novel. I can only label it a 'marmite' book - most readers will either love it or hate it. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
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Flaubert does not build up his characters, as did Balzac, by objective, external description; in fact, so careless is he of their outward appearance that on one occasion he gives Emma brown eyes; on another deep black eyes; and on another blue eyes.

--A comment by Dr. Enid Starkie, quoted (disapprovingly) in Flaubert's Parrot, by Julian Barnes.
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Puttermesser was thirty-four, a lawyer.
Can the corn Ruth
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679777393, Paperback)

Fans of Cynthia Ozick are likely already familiar with Ruth Puttermesser, whose highly educated, unlucky-in-love but rather mystical existence as a Jewish woman in New York City has been chronicled in previously published stories appearing occasionally through the years. The Puttermesser Papers collects the old stories, along with several new ones, combined to create a funny and surreal picaresque narrative, touching upon Puttermesser's job at a blueblood law firm, her creation and intellectual sparring with the golem she makes out of soil from her flowerpots, her term as mayor of New York, her own death by murder, and beyond.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:46 -0400)

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A rollicking extravaganza on Ruth Puttermesser, a woman lawyer who with the help of a genie becomes mayor of New York. Her real ambition, however, is to be a mother, but for that she has to wait until she is murdered and goes to heaven, where she meets the child's father. By the author of The Shawl.

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