LIFE IN A DAY by Doris Grumbach


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 A diary of a day that encapsulates the memories, reflections, and yearnings of a lifetime as gracefully as a FabergÇ egg captures spring sunlight in its tiny interior. Of the several memoirs written by the author, a critic and novelist, this is in many ways the most successful. She has steadily decreased the time span she deals with, from her 70th year in 1991's Coming into the End Zone to 1994's Fifty Days of Solitude to this single, ``hypersensitive'' day, one ``in which I find myself unusually aware.'' Minimizing has become important to her--``staying put'' is a phrase that offers delight, as does the biblical ``Be still.'' The day begins before sunrise as the 77- year-old author makes her unsure way downstairs to the ``life- saving'' coffee pot and, en route, recalls the image of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. A ritualistic breakfast includes a personalized version of the confiteor in the Book of Common Prayer and an appreciation of the color and movement in a common potted plant. The pile of books near her breakfast table is Base Camp One, on the way to the summit of her computer station, where she is writing a novel. Her first choice of reading matter, the letters of Rachel Carson, leads to reflections on how biographers of women resist the idea that close relationships with other women may have been sexual. Sheep printed on her flannel nightgown send her into a travel reverie about Scotland; a trip to the post office, where a bad review of her latest novel awaits, finds her browsing for consolation in her own eclectic library. Most of the day is spent in a writer's favorite occupation: avoiding work. Her output for this day is one page--leading to an engaging digression on computers. Chefs call it a reduction--boiling a flavorful liquid to its essence. By reducing her framework--in this case, from a year to a day--Grumbach has produced a pungent essence of a long and flavorful life.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8070-7088-2
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1996


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