End of the Novel of Lo

Vivian Gornick, Author
Vivian Gornick, Author Beacon Press (MA) $20 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8070-6222-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 165 pages - 978-0-8070-6223-4
Hardcover - 165 pages - 978-1-86049-646-2
Ebook - 154 pages - 978-0-8070-6216-6
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When Nietzsche announced that God was dead, he meant, in part, that people could no longer look to the deity for the meaning of life. The same, says Gornick, now holds true of love as a literary metaphor. The novel in which man and woman meet, have conflict, resolve conflict, and melt into each other's arms {fin} just doesn't cut it anymore. The problem is we now know too much about what happens after the music swells and the credits run to accept love as a kind of transcendental end in itself. ""Today,"" she says, ""love as a metaphor is an act of nostalgia, not of discovery."" Gornick traces the progress of realization through the lives and works of Kate Chopin, Jean Rhys, Willa Cather, Hannah Arendt, Christina Stead and Grace Paley. By the end of that trajectory, readers come to understand why Gornick finds that Jane Smiley's The Age of Grief and the heroes of Raymond Carver, Richard Ford and Andre Dubus ring hollow in their sense of ""men and women struggling together in dumb erotic need.... It arouses in each of them an astonishing capacity to respond to the desolation of ordinary lives in modern times.... And it leaves me with the taste of ashes in my mouth."" Some will no doubt find Gornick's (Approaching Eye Level) thesis lean and desolate. It's not. Love isn't a panacea in life, and Gornick argues that it shouldn't be in literature either. It's a message that is, in fact, invigorating and terrifically adult. (Oct.)
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