by: Clinton Crockett Peters
Vivian Gornick is a one person Renaissance, writing on eminent women scientists, feminism, civil activism, anarchism, and this country’s greatest authors. She is a finalist for both the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Phillip Lopate has called her, “One of the most vital and indispensable essayists of our cultural moment.” Her short, zippy, craft-book that’s not a craft-book, The Situation and The Story, has been oft-assigned to nonfictionists, the terminology of “the situation” and “the story” de rigeur parlance in workshops across the country.
Born to New York left-wingers in the 1930s, Gornick’s mom was a former communist organizer and her father died when she was just thirteen. Gornick was a journalist for the Village Voice in the seventies, and has amassed personal essays and literary and cultural criticism to add to her dozen books and counting. Her 1987 memoir Fierce Attachments, a staple in the nonfiction cannon, precipitated the memoir craze of the 1990s and 2000s, exceeding it with her biting insight, novel-esque scenes, and studied, penetrating reflection. In May, Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City came out. It has been described as a “narrative collage,” that “bookends” Fierce Attachments.