Last week I inhaled Vivian Gornick’s stunning book, The Odd Woman and the City, and days later I still find myself meditating on her insights about friendship and the self and severed connections. I’ve never encountered anyone who wrote better on the subject of New York City and the particular spell it casts on those of us who love it.
On Friendship, Gornick writes:
One’s own best self. For centuries, this was the key concept behind any essential definition of friendship: that one’s friend is a virtuous being who speaks to the virtue in oneself. How foreign is such a concept to the children of the therapeutic culture! Today we do not look to see, much less affirm, our best selves in one another. To the contrary, it is the openness with which we admit to our emotional incapacities—the fear, the anger, the humiliation—that excites contemporary bonds of friendship. Nothing draws us closer . . .
It is Gornick’s unflinching emotional transparency that makes reading The Odd Woman and the City feel like spending a week in the company of your most intimate friend. Her voice collapses the distance between writer and reader and creates real communion in the way that only the best books can.
I absolutely loved it.