Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader

Vivian Gornick. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-28215-8
In this brief and characteristically pithy collection, critic and memoirist Gornick (The Odd Woman and the City) considers how her responses to particular books have changed over time. What interests her is not discovering that she’d misremembered details of character and story, but finding a new comprehension of a book’s subject, such as realizing that her long-held impression of D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers’s “overriding theme—of sexual passion as the central experience of a life—was wrong.” With her perspective changing due to time, age, and shifting cultural landscapes, the mature Gornick finds former fonts of wisdom such as Colette now “narrow and confined” and learns she only appreciates Doris Lessing’s Particularly Cats after acquiring two tabbies and realizing she “had to grow into the reader for whom the book was written.” Through steady, sculpted prose and elegant readings, Gornick concludes the work of great literature is less about “the transporting pleasure of the story itself” than revealing readers to themselves, a process of self-discovery she relates to her description of Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua’s characters as “women and men, just out of Plato’s cave... moving blind toward some vague understanding of what it is to be human.” The insights in this rich work will be appreciated by Gornick fans and bibliophiles alike. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 09/05/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-76064-188-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-0940-6502-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-0940-6501-4
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-250-78572-5
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