Taking A Long Look

Essays on Culture, Literature and Feminism in Our Time

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Pub Date 16 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 16 Mar 2021

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One of our most vital and incisive writers on literature, feminism, and knowing one's self

For nearly fifty years, Vivian Gornick's essays, written with her characteristic clarity of perception and vibrant prose, have explored feminism and writing, literature and culture, politics and personal experience. Drawing writing from the course of her career, Taking A Long Look illuminates one of the driving themes behind Gornick's work: that the painful process of understanding one's self is what binds us to the larger world.

In these essays, Gornick explores the lives and literature of Alfred Kazin, Mary McCarthy, Diana Trilling, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Herman Melville; the cultural impact of Silent Spring and Uncle Tom's Cabin; and the characters you might only find in a New York barbershop or midtown bus terminal. Even more, Taking A Long Look brings back into print her incendiary essays, first published in the Village Voice, championing the emergence of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s.

Alternately crackling with urgency or lucid with insight, the essays in Taking A Long Look demonstrate one of America's most beloved critics at her best.
One of our most vital and incisive writers on literature, feminism, and knowing one's self

For nearly fifty years, Vivian Gornick's essays, written with her characteristic clarity of perception and...

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Featured Reviews

Taking a long Look - Vivian Gornick Vivian Gornick has mastered the art of reflection and rediscovering new things in the familiar. In her new book (due out in March next year) Gornick treads familiar territory with rereading and re-experiencing books and content she has previously read. The essays are gentle and flow so smoothly. The real skill in Gornick is making the reader either want to reread or read the works she’s discussing. Reading this was vaguely annoying as I had to keep jumping up and grabbing copies of things that she discusses. Her essay on De Beauvoir reflecting on 50 years of second sex in particular made me want to jump back in to that book and search for things she mentions. Her essay on Mary McCarthy is about a book I haven’t even read, but I still had to grab the only McCarthy in my house to flick through and consider! Whilst I find Miller, Roth et al a real struggle due to their misogyny, her essay and analysis brought new perspectives for me to consider. Her books are always a breath of fresh air and each sentence is worth pausing over. The sum of the parts really does make the whole to me. One thing I need to mention is that Gornick refers to herself as a Radical Feminist throughout the book. I haven’t been able to find this out to confirm, but there is an absence of Trans discussions in this book. That’s not surprising as the texts are classic first and second wave feminist discussion pieces. However, when a second wave feminist describes themselves as a RadFem I am concerned that I may be promoting the work of a trans exclusionary author. I wished to include that to make sure that I am not potentially misleading anyone. The absence concerns me and if I receive more info about Gornick I will update my review accordingly. Thanks to Verso Books and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my review

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This is a wonderful collection of Gornick’s writing over the years. Grouped by subject, the book shows the evolution of the author’s thinking on a number of subjects from literature to feminism. I particularly enjoyed the essays on Uncle Tom’s Cabin and on the conscious-raising movement. I do wish that each essay had been accompanied by notes about when they were written, however.

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Typical recap showing us all the shortcomings in history for where we have failed women and instead elevated men. Was well written but honestly a drag - let’s do something about it and stop just writing about it. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Reading Vivian Gornick's thoughts inspired me to read and re-read the subjects of her essay collection. Previously, I'd managed to avoid any consideration of Herman Melville. Gornick's insightful essay had me thinking about this classic author for the first time. I found her comments on consciousness raising groups particularly insightful and relevant to the present day, as we are forced to confront systemic issues in order to move forward in our personal lives.

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I liked this book for many reasons. One was the author of whom I have on a digital shelf Fierce Attachment and the book on Emma Goldman. I still haven't read them but this collection of essays made me pick at least one of them for my-next-to-read-books. Concerning this book, I found it fresh and provocative and also having a style of its own. When you read one of the essays you're struck by how distinctive it is. Reading Gornick you can't say that it's a voice like everyone writing online these days. And maybe this is one reason of loving the book. Another is the good flow. You want to read more even if you're not interested in the topic per se. The writing is contemporary in the best way. Also the writing isn't forced like some contemporary writers tend to do ("a few hundred words and I have my 1500 words"). You start a piece and read and read and almost suddenly you're at its end.

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I would read Vivian Gornick on any subject, but this collection really hits the spot as she talks about writers I admire (and those I don't) and finishes with some excellent explicit takes on feminism. Gornick has a way of illustrating a point that has never quite been articulated that way. I often felt some of the criticisms could have been longer, but they do what good criticism should do and make me want to read the author in question to make up my own mind. A section that transcribes a feminist group is so fascinating and ageless and I would have loved to have read more. Thanks to NetGalley, Verso Books and Vivian Gornick for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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In her new book, Vivian Gornick looks back at books and characters she has previously encountered and re-examines their motives, discussions, and implied themes. It is an intriguing premise and previous fans of Gornick will eat this up. You will certainly enjoy the book more being familiar with the books and authors Gornick discusses, but I think most readers are going to gravitate towards this for the radical takes and theoretical discussion. It definitely has Gornick's sharp wit and focused writing, but I didn't find this title to be particularly revolutionary in the way I think it wants to be. It follows the typical feminist discussion of failed women in books but does stand out in its controlled reflection and memoir-esque narrative. 3/5

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