Fierce Attachments: A Memoir (FSG Classics)
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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 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.
on the kitchen table, walked four blocks to the subway station, bought the Times, read it on the train, got off at Forty-second Street, entered her office building, sat down at her desk, put in a day’s work, made the trip home at five o’clock, came in the apartment door, slumped onto the kitchen bench for supper, then onto the couch where she instantly sank into a depression she welcomed like a warm bath. It was as though she had worked all day to earn the despair waiting faithfully for her at
and any interested listener that she was proud I was in school, only why did I have to be such a showoff? Was that what going to college was all about? Now, take Mr. Lewis, the insurance agent, an educated man if ever there was one, got a degree from City College in 1929, 1929 mind you, and never made you feel stupid, always spoke in simple sentences, but later you thought about what he had said. That’s the way an educated person should talk. Here’s this snotnose kid coming into the kitchen with
domestic tension I thought would dissipate momentarily. I’d wake up and say to myself: “Today. Today it comes to an end.” But then I’d get out of bed and the air would start filling up with that mild molecular misery. I sat in the rocking chair staring into space. Stefan came into the room and suggested we go for a walk. I lifted the book from my lap and said no, I had to finish the chapter. The next night he suggested a movie. No, I said, I was too tired. The third night there was a party at
remember the hours I had put in while under the spell of my vision. I felt strengthened by the sustained effort of work the fantasizing had led to. During this same period of time Joe and I achieved a new level of intensity. Every afternoon at four we burned and we drowned. It seemed during those dangerous days as though we were moving toward a climactic moment. In the evening, after he had left me, I would walk in the sweet hours of final daylight, fantasizing about us. Us together now, us
with a man you had to really really love him—otherwise the whole enterprise backfired. I remember at sixteen, my virginity under siege for the first time, waking each day to the interminable battle being waged in my head and my body, and imploring my mother silently: But, Ma, how do I know if I really really love him? All I know is, I’m in heat and he’s pushing me, he’s pushing me. In the hallway, on park benches, every night in the kitchen while you’re tossing around on the other side of a wall