The Odd Woman and the City

The Odd Woman and the City

A Memoir

Book - 2015
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"A contentious, deeply moving ode to friendship, love, and urban life in the spirit of Fierce Attachments A memoir of self-discovery and the dilemma of connection in our time, The Odd Woman and the City explores the rhythms, chance encounters, and ever-changing friendships of urban life that forge the sensibility of a fiercely independent woman who has lived out her conflicts, not her fantasies, in a city (New York) that has done the same. Running steadily through the book is Vivian Gornick's exchange of more than twenty years with Leonard, a gay man who is sophisticated about his own unhappiness, whose friendship has "shed more light on the mysterious nature of ordinary human relations than has any other intimacy" she has known. The exchange between Gornick and Leonard acts as a Greek chorus to the main action of the narrator's continual engagement on the street with grocers, derelicts, and doormen; people on the bus, cross-dressers on the corner, and acquaintances by the handful. In Leonard she sees herself reflected plain; out on the street she makes sense of what she sees. Written as a narrative collage that includes meditative pieces on the making of a modern feminist, the role of the flaneur in urban literature, and the evolution of friendship over the past two centuries, The Odd Woman and the City beautifully bookends Gornick's acclaimed Fierce Attachments, in which we first encountered her rich relationship with the ultimate metropolis"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ©2015
ISBN: 9780374298609
Branch Call Number: 818.5403 GOR 2015
Characteristics: 175 pages ; 20 cm


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May 25, 2017

I've tried to read this book at least two other times, but this time I stuck with it and it was brilliant. Maybe it was me who changed. Maybe it just had to be the right time of year. Regardless, after hearing so many respectful, intelligent, well-read people tell me this was the best book they'd read in a while, so many years after being published, I gave in. One more try.

Well, well worth it. Such a sweet and sassy, adorable and honest, crazy and giving, adorable writer and woman. It's like sitting in the kitchen of your amazing aunt while she tells you stories you are too young to hear about people you shouldn't be talking about, when you're young and not experienced in the life of no good choices.

Whatever you feel about life and about yourself, you feel more comfortable in all of it after reading this book. If she can be odd and comfortable with it, then we all can enjoy our lives where we find them. And walk around in them noticing, observing, taking it all in. Even if we don't live in her New York. But I wish I did.

Sep 14, 2016

This book was a pleasure to read. Gornick's observations are astute. Many of us go through daily life not paying any attention to the details of our surroundings and how we choose to interact (or not) with the people around us on the street, on the bus, etc. Gornick takes all of it in and the small anecdotes she observes connects to her life and gives it meaning. She is constantly engaging with people, whether she knows them or not, and she connects all of these instances into a way of life, a philosophy from connections and observations, and importantly, understanding.

That she can look at a photograph of Francois Gillot and Picasso and observe their present and their future shows the depths of Gornick's feelings for people and how they live their lives, and she can relate it to her own experiences. There were many deeply touching incidents. Her visit to the Metropolitan Museum when she sees the statue of Selket and how she implicitly felt, speaks to the powers of art when the right person is looking. That she deeply understood this work in a way that brought her to tears "from somewhere deeper down" is something we should all strive for. Her story about John Dylan reading Beckett in his Westbeth apartment resonated "somewhere deeper down."

I happened to watch Agnes Varda's film, Daguerréotypes while reading this book. Varda's film looks at her neighbors on Rue Daguerre in Paris. It is an intimate portrait of the people on her block, her observations of what they do every day and the people who interact with them. It is another intensely personal and inclusive view of life.

Dec 26, 2015

Wish this had been twice as long. Highly readable vignettes that brought New York and some of its characters right into my head. More evocative than photography.

sharlandjones Aug 21, 2015

Please renew till Aug 25th I am in Europe. Many thanks

manoush May 27, 2015

Some books feel less than the sum of their parts, and this book is one of them. It has a handful of wonderful quotations from novels and poems, and a handful of biographical sketches of storied writers. The rest are the author's encounters on streets, restaurants, trains, and buses, plus a schematic description of her mercurial friendship with a gay man. The most engaging parts of the book for me were the literary discussions. The confessional portions felt overwhelmingly shot through with resentment and a defensive ethos. It feels like Gornick slams her readers over the head with her repeated announcements that she's a non-materialistic world-weary feminist city-lover who's made peace with her uncoupled state, thank you very much. Her voice when discussing literature is less hectoring, more engaging and thought-provoking.

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