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.
New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, National Book Critics Circle Awards - Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Award - Nominee
Leonard and I are having coffee at a restaurant in midtown.
"So," I begin. "How does your life feel to you these days?"
"Like a chicken bone stuck in my craw," he says. "I can't swallow it and I can't cough it up. Right now I'm trying...
Praise for The Odd Woman and the City
“[F]unny and elegiac and truth-dealing. . . . It's a slim book with big echoes. . . . What puts The Odd Woman and the City across, however, is how deeply Ms. Gornick gets into the fat of feeling. She is as good a writer about friendship as we have.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[An] elusive and stirring memoir” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“Gornick's most ambitious attempt yet at the nonromance plot . . . richly felt.” —Laura Marsh, The New Republic
“In an age of often pointless confessional writing, Gornick remains a master of purposeful personal narrative.” —Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly
“A warm and rueful memoir.” —Megan O'Grady, Vogue
“One of the most vital and indispensable essayists of our cultural moment.” —Phillip Lopate
“Reading [Gornick] is a thrilling, invigorating, challenging experience.” —Barbara Fisher, The Boston Sunday Globe