May 22, 2012

Brooke Champagne on Vivian Gornick

On Being (S)Mothered: Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments

If I used the word perambulatory to describe this book, I’d stop to imagine my mother’s response: why do I always have to look up half the words you write, which invariably leaves me to interpret her comment as either compliment or pejorative (there you go again! she’d surely say). My mother is my favorite passive-aggressive editor.

But Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments is a perambulatory book, one in which a mother and daughter stroll down their New York streets across the decades only to misunderstand each other more deeply—more fiercely—as they slowly gray. Both women rhetorically strike back and forth with aplomb; their words stomp down the pages. Gornick struggles with her involuntary reactions to her mother’s ideas, the rush of blood to the head, the irritation morphing into rage. Oftentimes on walks that start off simple—let’s go for a walk and talk—she endeavors not to “make a holocaust of the afternoon.”

These are struggles of anyone with a mother, even one like mine, who perhaps I’ve been unfair to. Rather than an editor, she can be quite a sycophant. Ah, you wrote a piece about Gornick, she’ll say, how wonderful. Now who is he? Infuriating.

Hear Brooke read from this here.
(Learn more about Brooke Champagne herself here.)

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