Approaching Eye Level

Approaching Eye Level

by Vivian Gornick
     
 

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"[Approaching Eye Level is] about the day-to-day struggle to face down the brutality of growing loneliness, to accept the limitations of friendship and intimacy, to honor the process of becoming oneself. . . . Vivian Gornick's strength lies in her refusal to give up."-Mary Hawthorne, The New York Times

Overview

"[Approaching Eye Level is] about the day-to-day struggle to face down the brutality of growing loneliness, to accept the limitations of friendship and intimacy, to honor the process of becoming oneself. . . . Vivian Gornick's strength lies in her refusal to give up."-Mary Hawthorne, The New York Times

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Apparently Gornick writes only when she has something to say (Fierce Attachments was published in 1988), with the result that readers may not be conversant with her output of honed observations and unflinching conclusions. She is a New Yorker through and through. No place else in the country, or on the globe for that matter, nurtures her need for contact, variety and pure, random amazement. "The street," she tells us, "does for me what I cannot do for myself. On the street nobody watches, everyone performs." Everyone, that is, but Gornick. She watches a man and woman arguing on Ninth Avenue near the bus station; knowing nothing of the causes or the results of the situation becomes a part of the happening: "She too has New York kinky hair. For the moment that's comradeship enough." But there's more to these seven original essays than a hymn to Manhattan. There is also exploration of that most brutal and unconquerable of human sorrows, loneliness. One can learn more about the human soul from "On Living Alone" than can be absorbed on a first encounter. "Loneliness was me cut off from myself. Loneliness was the thing nothing out there could cure." Without even a flicker of self-pity, these short pieces bear rereading many times. Author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this gripping collection of personal essays, Gornick (How I Found America, LJ 7/91) delves beneath the surface of individual, community, and work. With honesty and insightfulness, she reflects on our fear of loneliness and sense of fragmentation and the survival techniques she and others employ at work and home. Gornick takes the reader with her for walks on New York City streets; onto academic campuses in New York, California, and New England; and to the Catskills, where she works. Gornick's clear writing and honest expression of her own need for personal connections, independence, and meaningful work make the reader feel like a participant-observer in all her experiences and personal encounters. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807070918
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
09/01/1997
Pages:
164
Product dimensions:
5.55(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.54(d)

Meet the Author

Vivian Gornick, "one of the most vital and indispensable essayists of our cultural moment" (Phillip Lopate), has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, and other journals.

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