20 Books You'll Devour in Your Downtime
8 of 20
The Odd Woman and the City
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Vivian Gornick is an activist and writer raised in the Bronx by left-leaning parents. "From earliest adolescence I knew there was a center-of-the-world, and that I was far from it," she observes in The Odd Woman and the City. "Far from it" is a matter of several miles by land and light-years in consciousness. With a youthful excitement reminiscent of her earlier memoir, Fierce Attachment
, Gornick writes of discovering the streets of Manhattan, which hold her with their magnetic grip. She is a modern-age Walt Whitman, traveling in divergent circles and then letting those chance encounters tell the story of her experience of the city. Someone sitting on the sidewalk with "a face full of broken blood vessels" shares the stage with the socialite who "held his wineglass in such a way that he seemed more aware of the feel of the crystal stem between his fingers than of the words coming out of his mouth." Only an "odd woman" brave enough to live alone at the periphery could so accurately nail the pitiless intensity of New York and make so strong a case for wanting to live there, despite—or because of—it.
— Terre Roche