Vivian Gornick always turns to the nineteenth century for comfort. She rhapsodized about reading Colette when she was young… but promptly wondered whether young women today would be able embrace those stories the same way. She also amended that most of the great female characters of the period were presented through a man’s perspective. The women writers like Henry James created, she said, were not true characters but devices to explore the “modern” shifts of identity. She admires them, but stipulated that she does not truly relate to them.
At least, I think that’s what she said. She was used to arguing her cases, and put any doubts to rest efficiently and seamlessly. I very well might have missed some of the finer points in the “cheap seats.” She will forgive me, and others like me, as she addressed the sticky issues of memoirs. “They require a more educated audience” than other genres. She replied to a question from the audience. “It’s naive to assume that conversations have been captured word for word” (I paraphrase. Heh heh.)
I did not mistake, though, even with the isolation and the rejection and the toils, that she called a working writer’s life privileged. Writing is torture, she admitted that she has admitted many times in the past, but there is “no greater I love you” than when the words flow.
Ideal Date: A walk down Tremont Street, in Bronx, to hear her reminiscences about growing up there, seeing some of the borough’s history from her eyes.