Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Fierce Attachments

Review Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

Vivian Gornick; Introduction by Jonathan Lethem Fierce Attachments
Before reading Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments, I felt frustrated by frozen memories. Why can’t I remember conversations, let alone themes, from my childhood and teen years? Why can I not paint a picture of anyone, myself included? Why does no one appear whole? After reading Gornick’s memoir, I sense a thawing. Memories aren’t exactly gushing yet, but they’re trickling.

Gornick weaves anecdotes to show primarily influences of her mother and a neighbor, Nettie. Other influences, other relationships appear, but Gornick’s focus seems to be womanhood and what she learned of it through Mama and Nettie. The memoir tells stories from the author’s childhood as well as adulthood. The reader enters into Gornick’s relationship with her mother through observations and conversations. Stories are infused with lively descriptions and dialogue and the author’s rear-view-mirror perspectives.

I cannot say my actual childhood experiences mirrored Gornick’s in any way, but the ice picks chipping away at my blocked childhood are the questions this memoir asks. Adults can universally ask Fierce Attachments’ questions of their own childhoods. What was openly praised? What was hush-hush? What was openly criticized? What unspoken alliances formed? What did you really desire—the deep-down reasons for actions? How did men relate to women, and women to men? What subliminal messages resulted? How did you assimilate these ideas? How did you question them, rebel against them?

To whatever degree readers examine their lives because of this memoir, they will benefit.

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