LOVE'S WORK: A Reckoning with Life by Gillian Rose
Kirkus Star

LOVE'S WORK: A Reckoning with Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A poetic and highly intellectual memoir that encourages us to read the mare's nest of grotesqueries that is our world of pain, illness, and trauma as a birthing-ground for the complex beauty of human relationships. In this singular, slim book, Rose (Social and Political Thought/Univ. of Warwick, England) has given us an emotive linking of pens‚es, a personal distillation of her philosopher's life which reminds the lay reader that philosophy is ""born out of [the] condition of sadness."" In Chapter One we meet Edna, a 93-year-old friend who has lost her nose to cancer and instead has a ""neat, oblong black hole in her face."" Chapter Two chronicles a visit to Poland; the author, always engaged with her Jewish identity, describes the forests outside Tarnow, where 1,800 Jews were massacred, as a fairy tale place with flowers, birdsong, rising sap; at the death camp Beizec, on the other hand, nothing grows on the ground where 600,000 bodies were burnt. The author's girlhood self is made complicated by dyslexia and disownment (for changing her name from Stone to Rose) and the polyglot, poly-religious strands of her ancestry. The book contains one beloved friend who dies of cancer and another who dies of AIDS. Midway through, Rose hypothesizes about an illness of her own--wondering how readers would feel discovering that the author herself had cancer--and via this experiment with both writing and reading, we are slowly, gradually immersed in the understanding that it may be a dying woman speaking to us. The most challenging topic for Rose appears to be not her illness, not colostomy or metastasis, but rather sexual love: Only here does her clear, limber voice thicken into opacity, and the writing becomes mannered and hermetic. Readers not accustomed to the upper reaches of a life of the mind will need a dictionary to read Love's Work, but they will use it gladly, since this is that demanding and wonderful companion: the book-as-intelligence.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1996
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Schocken