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Approaching Eye Level

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  146 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In a collection of personal essays, the author shares her struggle to achieve both independence and connection with others, reconsiders feminism, living alone, and marriage, and reveals how we can come to know ourselves by participating in the world.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Beacon Press (first published 1996)
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Pamela
Jan 29, 2015 Pamela added it
I'm a longtime Vivian Gornick fan, but hadn't gotten around to this collection, which circles around the themes of solitude and the city--Manhattan, quite specifically. "On the Street" is a wonderful paean to public life in the city, how energizing, entertaining, and deliciously human it can be. "The Catskills Remembered" is a view of brutal summers as "the help" in the heyday of that resort area: the brain-addling fatigue, crooked bosses, and supervisors who reveled in doling out humiliation. ...more
Marissa
Sep 11, 2008 Marissa rated it liked it
Shelves: feminist, non-fiction
I liked some of these essays, but sometimes found her analysis of people and relationships overwrought and overly philosophical. There's a weird pomposity to her tone at times; she seems to think she has a lot of insight when it comes to people and relationships, but there is so little that is truly personal in here it's hard to take her very seriously. The tone reminds me of how elite, self-centered NYC women talk to each other over expensive lunches. I guess the main reason I am giving her ...more
Caroline
Sep 29, 2015 Caroline rated it liked it
Interesting as a prelude to the Odd Woman and the City. "On Letter Writing" made me grateful for my exact age in a way I rarely experience: there were decades that took place by telephone, but we missed them entirely, have conducted all our friendships and love affairs by letter. Modern lovers.
Cory O'Born
Feb 16, 2011 Cory O'Born rated it really liked it
Approaching Eye Level
Vivian Gornick
Boston, Massachusetts
1996

As an essayist and memoirist known for her powerful language and strong themes of feminism, writing, and self-understanding, Vivian Gornick presents a collection of essays entitled Approaching Eye Level that unites all three. Published in 1996, the collection discovers truisms and enlightenment that are as relevant and relatable today as they were in the 70's and 80's that Gornick references. Her writing is a combination of precise, cl
...more
Laura
Nov 11, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
“Approaching Eye Level” by Vivian Gornick. Beacon Press, Boston, 1996.

“Approaching Eye Level” is the first publication I’ve read by essayist Vivian Gornick, and it is with deep sincerity that I say this book packs a punch. There are seven different chapters within, each exploring themes of loneliness, friendship, and the process of self-discovery. Gornick writes with a strong voice, sentimental and dramatic in its tone and powerful with its diction. It’s told in first person, and rightly so fo
...more
P.
May 04, 2016 P. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic, short-stories
Sometimes you find a book that just speaks to you (thanks to the best website ever, The Toast). Many of these essays circle around loneliness and they all at some point come back to the idea of humiliation, either at the hand of someone else, or being dealt out by Gornick, and that was surprising to me as I don't really think about humiliation a lot, and yet I was identifying with the writing. Which is apropos because these essays are also about starting out at one place, seeing a different side ...more
Lee Kofman
Feb 11, 2015 Lee Kofman rated it liked it
In this collection of personal essays, Gornick is deeply erudite and wonderful with language, yet the book left me feeling uneasy. I didn’t enjoy much dwelling in her headspace, because it is full of bitterness in a sort of unremoved way which is problematic for a memoirist, since memoirists thrive on distance. I couldn’t really understand her psychology either, e.g. why she ended up being so alone after her marriage ended, or even – why the marriage ended. The excuses she gives sound somewhat ...more
Christina Rau
Nov 13, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
From the first essay that laments the death of a woman she barely knew to the loneliness in the world of academics, I got it. So read Approaching Eye Level if you like New York City, if you understand the flaneur, if you are a college professor, if you are a woman, if you are a writer, if you are a sentient human being.
Kathleen
Aug 28, 2015 Kathleen rated it liked it
Sometimes Gornick is a bit difficult to understand. Her writing is eloquent, and understands what being alone is like.I liked her analysis of Feminism and her relationship with Rhoda Monk.
Rita
Aug 20, 2011 Rita marked it as to-read
To read some of her books of essays,
this one, or The Situation and the Story, or
The End of the Novel of Love


WRB JAn 2002 has a good review of Situation, mentioning other work of hers.
cansu m
Jan 13, 2016 cansu m rated it really liked it
basically gornick on cities+solitude+~the female experience~. i love her and i'm definitely starting "the odd woman and the city" next.
Lewismatt
Jan 02, 2010 Lewismatt rated it really liked it
she is such a keen observer of herself and the world as she lived/s in it. She is such a thinker that sometimes the whole gets lost in the specifics- but the reward for the effort is well worth it
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  • Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals: Adventures in Love and Danger
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  • The Body: An Essay
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Date of Birth: 1935

Vivian Gornick is an American critic, essayist, and memoirist. For many years she wrote for the Village Voice. She currently teaches writing at The New School. For the 2007-2008 academic year, she will be a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. She caused a controversy when she said that she had invented parts of Fierce Attachments, her largely autobiographica
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