By Cynthia Ozick
192 pages. Houghton Mifflin.
Cynthia Ozick has a wicked intellect, and she deploys it coolly in Dictation: A Quartet (Houghton Mifflin), her new collection of short fiction. The tantalizing title story—about Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and the two secretaries (with covert agendas) who funnel the masters' stories through those modern inventions, their typewriters—is a testament to the seductions of language and the smoldering aspirations of art.