(1928- ) US novelist and critic, best-known for work published outside fantasy. Although she writes in the mainstream of literary modernism – her first novel, Trust (1966), takes to heart the solemn abjurations of Henry James, and CO has written ironically but feelingly about her youthful devotion to the "mandarin" standards of "High Art" – she has shown no interest in genre fiction. A second influence in CO's work, the tradition of Yiddish literature (often based on fables, Folktales and other fantastic sources) that ran from Sholem Aleichem to Isaac Bashevis Singer, is evident in much of her short fiction, which frequently approaches the fantastic. The narrator of "The Pagan Rabbi" (Hudson Review 1966) reads the journal of a pious rabbi who fell in love with a Dryad; as the rabbi was eventually a suicide, his account may be rationalized as delusional. "The Dock-Witch" (in The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories coll 1971) relates the tale of a man's obsessive affair with a woman who may be an Undine. Most of the stories in Bloodshed and Three Novellas (coll 1976) and Levitation: Five Fictions (coll 1982) similarly admit, without always confirming, some element of the supernatural: Golems, the Afterlife, magical powers. CO's short fictions are usually novellas; they are exactingly wrought, often with poised ambiguity (the influence of James can be inferred) regarding their fantasy content, or the reliability of their narrators; they have won numerous awards. [GF]
other works: The Cannibal Galaxy (1983), not sf; The Messiah of Stockholm (1987), not fantasy; The Shawl (coll of linked stories 1989 chap), two stories featuring a perhaps magical shawl. CO's nonfiction is assembled in Art & Ardor: Essays (coll 1983), Metaphor & Memory: Essays (coll 1989), and What Henry James Knew and Other Essays on Writers (coll 1993 UK).