cover image Life in a Day CL

Life in a Day CL

Doris Grumbach. Beacon Press (MA), $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7088-8

A day spent puttering about with a 77-year-old retiree living on the coast of Maine doesn't promise high adventure. Reality turns out quite differently. Grumbach has spent her adult life in the world of books and writers as a novelist and critic; her longtime companion is a rare book dealer. Every step she takes is an intellectual adventure, evoking memories of books she has read, writers she has known. The one defining event of this quiet day is a cruel one: a stingingly negative New York Times review of her novel The Book of Knowledge comes in the mail. Unflinchingly, Grumbach faces a verdict that begins: ""This is rather a nasty book...."" She even includes a facsimile of the review here so the reader may share her feelings. ""Rejection,"" she realizes ""is an affliction as painful as shingles or loss of a limb."" Grumbach's struggles to sit at the computer and write will be agonizingly familiar to writers, in fact to all procrastinators. She begins to transcribe some handwritten notes but is distracted into searching for a quotation in Somerset Maugham's The Summing Up--""that never-bettered book of sage counsel from an accomplished writer based on his own long, successful career."" The quiet pace of her day, layered with side trips into a lifetime's storehouse of words and thoughts, is seductive. Despite occasional grumblings about technology and general modern aggravations, this is a profoundly optimistic book: a validation of the strength and the tranquillity to be found within the confines of the human mind. Illustrations. (Oct.)