Graceful but essentially unsatisfying reflections on seven weeks spent alone in a house near the Maine coast. Novelist and critic Grumbach chronicled her move with her friend Sybil from Washington, D.C., to Maine in Extra Innings (1993), a memoir of her 74th year. A year later, Sybil hied herself back to Washington on an extended business trip -- 50 days, to be exact. Rather than accompany her, Grumbach decided to tough out a Maine winter alone, ""to move forward in my work and deeper into the chambered nautilus of the mind that produces it."" Solitude is relative here. The author unplugged one phone but left another hooked to an answering machine, warning callers that she might or might not return calls. Recordings and radio broke the silence at home, trips to the post office and to church kept her in visual touch with other human beings, although she refrained from conversation. Nevertheless, long days passed when her only companions were birds, insects, books, and the two fictional characters who were the centerpiece of the novel she was working on. In this diary of her solitude, Grumbach ponders death (""...was I perhaps preparing myself for the final deep freeze...""), creativity, being alone, the search for self, and the consequences of silence -- the cold seems colder, the space larger, and in the midst of a snowstorm, silence itself becomes noisy. Most rewarding are Grumbach's comments on books and authors; a lengthy reading list could be constructed from this small memoir. Vignettes of intriguing acquaintances are also deftly sketched. However, the brief journal-style entries, evocative as they often are, cry for further development. If Grumbach went to the bottom of her soul during her lonely winter, she does not take the reader with her.
Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1994
Page Count: 112
Publisher: "Beacon -- dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux"