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The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,230 ratings  ·  430 reviews
A memoir of self-discovery and the dilemma of connection in our time, The Odd Woman and the City explores the rhythms, chance encounters, and ever-changing friendships of urban life that forge the sensibility of a fiercely independent woman who has lived out her conflicts, not her fantasies, in a city (New York) that has done the same. Running steadily through the book is ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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I'm walking up Fifth Avenue at noon straight into the cold harsh sunlight of a morning in November. Mobs of people are coming at me. Once the dominating color of this crowd was white, now it is black and brown. Once it wore blue and white collars, now it is in mufti. Once it was law-abiding, now it is not. The idiom has changed, but the character remains stable.

Ms Gornick and I have almost nothing in common except for our love for New York City, she as a native and I as a visitor. We are of di
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir by Vivian Gornick is a beautiful book. I was hoping to love it- I loved Gornick's memoir, Fierce Attachments: A Memoir so I knew I loved Gornick's writing style and her sensibility.

The book did not let me down!

The book combines many of my favorite themes: New York City, the idea of the flaneur, a woman negotiating life alone in New York City, how people negotiate relationships (of various kinds), and (indirectly) growing older. Gornick is my role model.

The b
Diane Barnes
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bedtime-books
I figured this would be great bedtime reading. A book of musings about life in NYC, feminism, literature, friendships; short vignettes including her penchant for people watching and overheard snippets of conversation. I have never lived in New York or even visited there, but I love walking the streets of many smaller cities that I've visited, and my own much smaller neighborhoods, so I could relate.
I was right, this was perfect for bedtime reading, or any time when you need a pick up and put dow
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a thin book to be savored. It's not a traditional memoir, but a series of vignettes which move back and forth in time between Gornick's childhood, her early adulthood, and the present, when, as a single woman who has learned much about life and herself. There were so many excerpts about life on the streets of NYC which made me laugh out loud or smile in recognition. One of these took place on 14th Street where she ran into a friend and carried on a conversation despite the Con Ed drillin ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Teresa by: Anne Reach
Like Charles Dickens with London, Gornick walks the streets of New York City and knows them intimately. She walks for the same reasons I believe Dickens did: to ward off restlessness and depression; and to immerse herself in the characters she encounters, because hearing their voices, their “expressiveness” as she calls it (a word which recalls for me Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer) is like breathing.

It’s written as “a series of vignettes,” as Anne's review says, which can tell you more about t
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I find everything gornick writes incredibly stimulating. Her writing makes me see many connections happening all at the same time. Friendship, city life, family life, sickness, death, she goes through all of it. Her take on other writers is always wonderful, since she is a great reader of literature and of being human.
♥ Sandi ❣
2.5 stars

Not a book that I would recommend. I was disappointed - thoroughly.

So many, many characters it was dizzying. Absolutely no way to keep them all straight. And authors - she spoke of so many. And so many short clips - moving from topic to topic. She seemed to go from past to present and back to past within a sentence - it keeps your mind spinning. This is a short book as it is and the method it is written in makes it jumbled, in disarray, and mind boggling.

I don't profess to judge anyon
Steve Turtell
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
My only real complaint is that I wish this was longer, as I get a sense that Gornick is winding down, nearing the end of her writing life (and of course she's more than entitled, as she's in her eighties). I gulped it down, just the way I gulp New York street life every time I take a walk in this still glorious, filthy, magical city, the city I was, as was Gornick, born in.

"It's the voices I can't do without. In most cities of the world the populace is planted in centuries of cobblestoned alley
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brief but brilliant book. What intelligence and what perceptiveness this woman has! Also, now I know what a flaneur is. I had thought it was possibly a fabrics retailer that sold flannel, not someone wandering around the city making observations.

This is an absorbing series of discontinuous narratives about the streets of Manhattan, with literary references so profound and in such abundance that that alone is an education by itself.

Read this by all means: hard coverly, Nookily, Kindly, libraril
Jun 24, 2015 rated it did not like it

Before the book starts, there's an unexpected (for me) warning: All names and identifying characteristics have been changed. Certain events have been reordered and some characters and scenes have been composites.

In short, the title is false. It's a faux memoir. Or, to put it bluntly, fake. What's real and what's not real? Who knows?.

Based on a NYTimes review of the book, I thought it would be interesting because Ms. Gornick's life has a few similarities to mine. Leaving the Bronx for Manhattan
Scarlet Cameo

This was a HUGE disappointment. Boring and all over the place, the only good thing was that I leanr about some writers that sounds awesome.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
I liked this meditation on living in New York City. This is more of a journal than a sustained narrative and my favorites of Gornick's remain her more substantive memoir, Fierce Attachments, her feminist literary criticism of The End of the Novel of Love, and her essential guide to the art of the personal essay, The Situation and the Story. I noticed a undercurrent of black-and-white racial awareness in this book - isn't that new for her? (In addition to sexual politics, an abiding concern) One ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
It baffles me why Vivian Gornick isn't as well known as a writer as say, Joan Didion. I sit in wonder as she creates her world for the reader; yes, this is a memoir, but not in the traditional one may think of a memoir. I think I like her so much because she gives snippets of her life, weaving present day with the past. She walks the streets of New York with her friend, Leonard, ruminating on life, past and present.

And who writes sentences like these?! "He was in his sixties then, smaller and mu
Found myself skimming a couple of times, but overall a good look at New York City from a native familiar with the "old" days. ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
4.5 stars.

I really enjoyed this one. I had the luxury of a quiet weekend morning to get stuck in, and this introspective read was the perfect accompaniment.

In this book, Vivian Gornick keeps a journal of sorts, detailing her lived experiences in the city of New York. She is an older woman, often pounding the city’s streets on her regular walks, listening to snippets of conversations, privy to peeks into the lives of her fellow city dwellers, making observations about a variety of things with suc
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book, I really did. So many people I value had said such good things about Gornick, shared lovely quotes and waxed lyrical on her writing. Maybe I was expecting too much, but this just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.

There were kernels of glorious prose in here. I found the sections about other things - other lives, other books, whatever - to be mostly incredibly interesting and quite well-written. Everything about Gornick herself felt annoying though. Too much, too int
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it
She has such a great voice—I loved Fierce Attachments and she is consistently, well...the same person. But this book was really disjointed and meandering.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
'I know about this obscure 19th century English novelist, Alfred Puddington-Bingley, who once wrote a proto-modernist novel called Crosses and Noughts about an old London schoolteacher fond of taking long walks around the city and reminiscing on her failed marriage to an accountant and her resolution to never touch a human being again. I modeled my life on this character, which I knew at the time was a mistake. That's why I did it. Do I regret it? Of course. But I don't regret my regret, and the ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have been meaning to read Vivian Gornick properly for years and this book turned up in an airport bookshop exactly when I needed it. I wanted something absorbing and meaningful and delightful, without being too ponderous or shallow. When I made the purchase, the woman serving me read the back and said 'wow, I like the sound of this'. Now that was a bit of a Gornick move including that small anecdote. She spins from the everyday and the enduring (namely long friendships and their sometimes myst ...more
Michael Livingston
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful love letter to NYC, filled with glorious snippets of street life, ruminations on love and friendship and infused with Gornick's witty, smart and big-hearted sensibility. ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2017
"We were in thrall to neurotic longing, all of us - Dorothea and Isabel, my mother and I, the fairy-tale princess. Longing was what attracted us, what compelled our deepest attention. The essence, indeed, of a Chekovian life. Think of all those Natashas sighing through three long acts for what is not, and can never be. While one (wrong) man after another listens sympathetically to the recital of a dilemma for which there is no solution" (55). ...more
Jan 27, 2019 added it
Shelves: women-talk, 2019
This is such a short book that it doesn't have the right - in my opinion - to be such a mixed bag?

On the one hand, the writing is very beautiful. Vivian Gornick has the clear, precise way of expressing hard of define feelings that I love in a writer. She also talks a lot, and in ways I could relate to, about wandering the city and using walking as a coping mechanism of sorts and I definitely appreciated to see parts of my experiences reflected in a book - it's always a delight!

However, the thin
Richard Gilbert
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This short memoir, really one long essay, is about friendship, especially in New York City, walking in the city, and encounters with strangers in the city. Vivian Gornick makes this compelling because her stories are so interesting, as is her brutally honest truth-speaking voice and her humor. She tells funny stories on herself.

And she is aware that, well, she's odd. The latter is literally a reference to her feminism—she takes the term from George Gissing about feminists of an earlier era—but i
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Meditations on life, loneliness, friendships and connections, all through the lens of living and walking in the streets of New York City. Some of her passages resonated quite greatly with me, others less so, but it's an interesting portrait of growing older and moving through life as a (mostly) single woman, nonetheless surrounded every day by interactions and people that make up the city and in turn her longest, constant relationship. ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This book is somehow a portrait of NY city and its lifestyle, through Gornick's eyes. It's not exactly a story, but a compendium of anecdotes seen or experienced by the author, all of them told in the ironic style that characterizes Gornick.
What I love most of Gornick is the intelligence that dazzles in her words and her complex and unestable personality that make me think of her as an interesting person for having a talk.
Kylie Maslen
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I completely loved this book. I'm so thrilled to have welcomed Gornick's work into my life. Funny, biting and comforting all at once. ...more
Laurence Leduc-Primeau
Livre, je pense, que je vais me mettre à aimer de plus en plus à mesure que le temps depuis la lecture passe - c'est un bon signe, c'est rare.

When human experience slides off the scale, and the end of civilization threatens, only hard truths will do; and I was finding them sealed into the minimalist prose of French and Italian novelists of the fifties and sixties. Here, an eerie inwardness trapped in the prose resonated inside a suffusing silence that promised moral disorder of a serious nature.
What Ever Happened to baby Sophie
"Turning sixty was like being told I had six months to live. Overnight, retreating into the refuge of a fantasized tomorrow became a thing of the past. Now there was only the immensity of the vacated present. Then and there I vowed to take seriously the task of filling it. But, of course, easier said than done. It wasn’t hard to cut short the daydreaming, but how exactly did one manage to occupy the present when for so many years one hadn’t? Days passed, then weeks and months in which I dreaded ...more
Andrew Sampson
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
vivian gornick, now there’s someone who has no trouble getting her 10,000 steps in every day
Aug 18, 2020 added it
A perfect book for me-- smart Jewish woman walking through New York in flaneur style, observing this and that, with literary insight and soul. Can't say I share Gornick's skepticism about men and women, but she has a lively mind. Discovered at least one new author whom I am exploring. ...more
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Vivian Gornick is the author of, among other books, the acclaimed memoir Fierce Attachments and three essay collections: The End of the Novel of Love, Approaching Eye Level, and, most recently, The Men in My Life. She lives in New York City.

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