APPROACHING EYE LEVEL by Vivian Gornick

APPROACHING EYE LEVEL

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In these essays, journalist and essayist Vivian Gornick (Fierce Attachments, 1987) bravely faces--and, even more remarkable, clearly renders--loneliness and the ongoing search for human connection. Gornick brings us out on the striving, bustling streets of Manhattan, where she often finds herself walking, seeking a kind of company in the anonymous crowd. We follow her, too, into stifling, backbiting university communities where she has spent time as a visiting writing teacher, and to the Catskills, where, working as a waitress, she learned brutal lessons about human nature. She meditates painfully on a brilliant woman writer, a friend of hers, now dead, who was loved, even worshiped, by many people, yet spent her life evading intimacy. Gornick also devotes an essay to living alone; rethinking a dogmatic devotion to solitude--she once wrote a polemic called ``Against Marriage''--she ponders the ways in which, post-divorce, she has never really learned to live by herself. She is courageous in these pieces, both in what she will say and in what she is willing to see. Throughout, she beautifully articulates, from a feminist perspective, her struggle to work and create, and to from meaningful relationships with others. The collection's themes come together in a final essay on letter writing, in which she argues, that, though many complain that the telephone has killed the letter, both represent vital parts of life: the impulses to connect and to narrate. Gornick argues eloquently against choosing one form of expression over the other, though this essay is a little dated now that so many people, through e-mail, are charting a new course somewhere in between. Though Gornick's standards for quality conversation are higher than most people's--hence her vulnerability to the isolation that accompanies its absence--her hunger for connection and understanding resonates and inspires. Her prose is sharp and her characterizations--of her friends, modern life, and of herself-- ring true. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8070-7090-4
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996




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