The Story Begins: Essays on Literature, Amos Oz 1996

Oz, one of Israel’s most read novelists who died in 2018, takes up the critic’s pen in this short book which analyzes the first lines of ten novels, from the both well-known authors (Kafka, Gogol, Raymond Carver, Chekhov, Marquez) to less known Israeli authors Agnon, Shabtai, and Yizhar.  Oz makes a plea for ‘slow reading’ in which the “pleasure of reading , like other delights, should be consumed in small sips”.  He views reading as entering a contract with the writer in which each party participates in the telling and receiving of a story, occasionally misled but hopefully ending up in the right place.  These were mostly novels that I have not read so the brief chapters on each proved to be interesting.  The longest chapter (23 pages) was Elsa Morante’s History, an author and book which I don’t know and which I am not moved to read.  I loved Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness which I read earlier this year, but this volume left much to be desired and felt a bit forced.  Not recommended unless you’re a hard core literary detailnik.