Fierce Attachments: A Memoir

Fierce Attachments: A Memoir

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by Vivian Gornick
     
 

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In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. There have been numerous books about mother and daughter, but none has dealt with this closest of filial relations as directly or as ruthlessly. Gornick's groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O'Brien has called "the prinicpal crux of

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Overview

In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. There have been numerous books about mother and daughter, but none has dealt with this closest of filial relations as directly or as ruthlessly. Gornick's groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O'Brien has called "the prinicpal crux of female despair": the unacknowledged Oedipal nature of the mother-daughter bond.

Born and raised in the Bronx, the daughter of "urban peasants," Gornick grows up in a household dominated by her intelligent but uneducated mother's romantic depression over the early death of her husband. Next door lives Nettie, an attractive widow whose calculating sensuality appeals greatly to Vivian. These women with their opposing models of femininity continue, well into adulthood, to affect Gornick's struggle to find herself in love and in work.

As Gornick walks with her aged mother through the streets of New York, arguing and remembering the past, each wins the reader's admiration: the caustic and clear-thinking daughter, for her courage and tenacity in really talking to her mother about the most basic issues of their lives, and the still powerful and intuitively-wise old woman, who again and again proves herself her daughter's mother.

Unsparing, deeply courageous, Fierce Attachments is one of the most remarkable documents of family feeling that has been written, a classic that helped start the memoir boom and remains one of the most moving examples of the genre.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This supple, energized memoir chronicles Gornick's (Essays in Feminism) explosive relationship with her mother and her unsuccessful battle to reject a legacy of hatred, depression and humiliation. Gornick is ``an able storyteller with a keen ear for dialogue,'' but, according to PW, her work bogs down with ``therapy-talk and self-indulgence.'' (May)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374154851
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
04/01/1987
Pages:
203

Meet the Author

Vivian Gornick's books include Approaching Eye Level, The End of The Novel of Love, and The Situation and The Story. She lives in New York City.

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3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The memoir Fierce Attachments is about a mother and her adult daughter who live in New York City. Vivian, the daughter and narrator, grew up in the city and continues to live there as an adult, only a short distance from her mother. This book provides interesting anecdotes and stories about the pasts of the two women as the walk among the streets of New York together in present time. I enjoyed the way Gornick switched between the present and past tenses while telling her story because it allows the reader to understand her present actions and thoughts a little better after each story of her past. However I also thought that her transitions between anecdotes and scenes were rather abrupt. Her generalized conclusions seemed like a cop out of what could have been an interesting analysis of an important story. After sharing a story about her wedding reception, Gornick briefly describes her mother¿s position in the kitchen: ¿Completing my isolation was the sight of Mama in continual food-supplying motion, her eyes grim, on her mouth a fixed smile, her hand out palm up warding off congratulations¿ (137). I think that a quick statement analyzing this behavior would have helped the reader to see the importance of this gesture. Instead, Gornick immediately moves on to a different anecdote without allowing the previous one to set in. I think that with a book of anecdotes, they should be slightly more connected and flow better to give the book some sort of continuity. Overall I feel that it was a decent memoir, but both the actual content of the book and presentation of the stories could have been improved. Since neither aspect was particularly impressive the book was not wonderful but it was a decent book.