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Descripción de editorial
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
One of our most beloved writers reassess the electrifying works of literature that have shaped her life
I sometimes think I was born reading . . . I can’t remember the time when I didn’t have a book in my hands, my head lost to the world around me.
Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader is Vivian Gornick’s celebration of passionate reading, of returning again and again to the books that have shaped her at crucial points in her life. In nine essays that traverse literary criticism, memoir, and biography, one of our most celebrated critics writes about the importance of reading—and re-reading—as life progresses. Gornick finds herself in contradictory characters within D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, assesses womanhood in Colette’s The Vagabond and The Shackle, and considers the veracity of memory in Marguerite Duras’s The Lover. She revisits Great War novels by J. L. Carr and Pat Barker, uncovers the psychological complexity of Elizabeth Bowen’s prose, and soaks in Natalia Ginzburg, “a writer whose work has often made me love life more.” After adopting two cats, whose erratic behavior she finds vexing, she discovers Doris Lessing’s Particularly Cats.
Guided by Gornick’s trademark verve and insight, Unfinished Business is a masterful appreciation of literature’s power to illuminate our lives from a peerless writer and thinker who “still read[s] to feel the power of Life with a capital L.”
In this brief and characteristically pithy collection, critic and memoirist Gornick (The Odd Woman and the City) considers how her responses to particular books have changed over time. What interests her is not discovering that she'd misremembered details of character and story, but finding a new comprehension of a book's subject, such as realizing that her long-held impression of D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers's "overriding theme of sexual passion as the central experience of a life was wrong." With her perspective changing due to time, age, and shifting cultural landscapes, the mature Gornick finds former fonts of wisdom such as Colette now "narrow and confined" and learns she only appreciates Doris Lessing's Particularly Cats after acquiring two tabbies and realizing she "had to grow into the reader for whom the book was written." Through steady, sculpted prose and elegant readings, Gornick concludes the work of great literature is less about "the transporting pleasure of the story itself" than revealing readers to themselves, a process of self-discovery she relates to her description of Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua's characters as "women and men, just out of Plato's cave... moving blind toward some vague understanding of what it is to be human." The insights in this rich work will be appreciated by Gornick fans and bibliophiles alike.