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Fierce Attachments: A Memoir Paperback – August 25, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374529965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374529963
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rarely is the barbed edge of mother love described with such scorching wit and raw emotion as it is in Vivian Gornick's reissued memoir. Fierce Attachments zigzags between a Bronx tenement teeming with immigrants in the 1940s and New York in the 1980s. It chronicles an almighty struggle between the author and her mother, a stubborn rabble-rouser bursting with tart, angry pronouncements, moxie, and an undeniable measure of charm. Waving away an "Eastern religionist" trying to sell her on his god, she raps out: "Young man, I am a Jew and a socialist. I think that's more than enough for one lifetime, don't you?" Her husband's untimely death is the occasion for such wild histrionics--screaming, refusing to walk, flinging herself into the grave--that when Gornick works the Middle East years later as a journalist, the ululating cries and fainting mourners at funerals seem comfortably familiar. The rapid-fire flow of confidences and furious arguments between the duo mellow slightly, believably, as they grow older together. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This supple, energized memoir chronicles Gornick's volatile relationship with her mother and her unsuccessful battle to reject a legacy of hatred, depression, humiliation and self-pity. An able storyteller with a keen ear for dialogue, Gornick (Essays in Feminism effectively montages the intimate, crude kaffeeklatsches in the Bronx tenement of her youth with street scenes from present-day Manhattan. Particularly vivid is the portrait of Nettie, the sensual, Gentile outsider among Jewish immigrant neighbors, who drives a deeper wedge between mother and daughter when she takes the young Gornick under her tutelage. The author's inherited rage particularly doomed her relationships with men, she feels, and she supplies bleak details from her failed marriage as well as her affairs with an older married man and a psychotic childhood love. Unfortunately, the insightful "deprivation litany" bogs down with "knee-jerk antagonism," therapy-talk and self-indulgence as a 48-year-old Gornick obsessively censures an 80-year-old mother.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Zickefoose on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book 10 plus years ago. It is powerfully honest, beautifully written and particularly memorable. While my own mother had died many years before I read this book it brought her back to me in a most vivid way. No, my mother was not a thing like Ms. Gornicks--indeed my mother was a mild, defering sort--what they had in common, and what I think is at heart the power of this book, is that they were indeed both mothers. Gornick takes us to whatever it is that connects us to our mother/parent--ie a fierce attachment that is near universal. It isn't an easy thing for any of us to face our parents emotionally--feelings toward them--good or bad can tend to the extreme and coming to any rational understanding of that realtionship takes lots of work. This is where this book comes in--Gornick doesn't know our parents--or our struggles--but she describes the fierceness of the connection in her own case honestly and clearly--plus she is a talented wordsmith so she finds just the right language to do it. Anyway, I still love this book--and while I hardly ever read a book twice--(there are way too many I haven't read that I want to get to!) I think I might reread this one--maybe I am drawn to do it because I still miss my mom....whom I never got along with very well but whom I still love/can't shake off...those fierce attachment can't be undone. P.S. plus there are lots of very funny one-liners to be had in this book--what more can you ask for.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
The truth is, Gornick could write about the hard bit of cheese left over and I would thill to it. She is a superb stylist and I've read all her books greedily -- precious objects that they are. This book, with its dark and painful attachment to her mother laid bare for us -- and how this attachment has acted upon all her other attempts at attachment -- is kinetic both intellectually and emotionally. She repeatedly tiptoes up to that taboo -- the lack of love that keeps a mother and daughter so intimately entwined -- and lets us stare over the lip of the abyss. I see myself, I see so many women. She is an incredible writer. Every hard won word is worth the wait. A true gem.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By lady detective on June 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Vivian Gornick's book is filled with anecdotal incidents that culminate in a montage like telling of the relationship between herself and her mother. At times, I longed for a more linear style, or a more indepth telling of some of the stories. The end of the book, when Gormick goes into greater detail on her relationships with men in her life, was the part I enjoyed the most. I thought those retellings revealed more about her character than any of the other vignettes. I closed the book still wanting more on the mother daughter relationship, I felt like there were chunks missing. In some ways it was difficult for me to match up the mother Gornick watched as a child, and the mother she went walking with later in life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By harperlee on July 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gornick has a real ear for dialogue. This book is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Her writing is glorious. Her perceptions about herself and others are beautifully drawn.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Maggie on August 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
I think one would be hard put to find a reviewer who thinks that Gornick can't write, or that she doesn't have insights that other people feel are incisive and/or applicable to their own lives. I will not dispute any of this; this is an excellently-written book that does a wonderful job exploring the mother/daughter relationship. (Not being either one, I'm somewhat handicapped at commenting on how accurate it is in that area.)
I do think, however, that one should be aware of Gornick's take on what constitutes a memoir. Gornick has written that she views the lives on which a memoir is based to be the "rough draft." She feels that the "memoir" does not need to be held to the strict standards of truefulness that other non-fiction is. (For details on Gronick's take on what a memoir is, please read her piece in Salon: [...]
Personally, I find her explanations unsatisfactory, and her justifications to be rationalizations at best. I do not get enjoyment from the literary technique of an unreliable narrator, no matter how many literary persons find it to be a brilliant technique for exploring whatever (the universality of subjectivity, the unreliability of supposed objectivity, the capricious nature of life, or what have you), and similarly I have trouble with the concept of a "memoir" that is, at it's base, a piece of fiction. Perhaps I am a philistine, but I much prefer something like "The Ladies Auxiliarly," which, while certainly *based* on the author's life, does not pretend in any way to *be* life.
That caveat aside, I *do* honestly think that this is a very good book that many will enjoy. Just caveat emptor, is all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. Briner on October 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Vivian Gornick's Fierce Attachments makes for an exciting and thought-provoking read. Her memoir has a relatable simplicity written through an innovative perspective. She presents her narrative with great analysis and at the same time provides a light-hearted feel.
Every scene is full of life. Unconventionally, Gornick chooses to stray away from chapter divisions--it in no way takes away from the story. The story, in fact, flows better without chapter titles previewing the next memory. Every memory is described extensively passed tangible objects in the room. She goes beyond showing and enables the reader to feel the emotions in the room: "The living room...Here you took a deep breath, held it until you were smothering, then either got out or went under. In the kitchen...You could breathe. You could live" (68-67). The reader has gone past visualizing and is there. Every character and scene developed enhances the story.
The scenes chosen are just important to the memoir as the writing. After Gornick presents an eventful memory, she moves to a walk in the city with her mother. Each walk filled with dialogue reflecting the emotions of the juxtaposed memory. It is clear how the tumultuous relationship with her mother influences her choices and her persona. A great example appears in one of her few heartwarming connections with her mother. She, after a close neighbor Nettie tries to console her, discovers "Mama was where [she] belonged" (71). Gornick accompanies this memory with that of her walk down a sunlit Eighth Avenue where she predicts her mother's defensive reaction before it happens. In a new state of mind, she "[becomes] irritated but [remains] calm. Not falling into a rage..." that she knows she usually would (74).
The memoir lures the reader in. With no dull moments, the reader is left without an opportunity for a bathroom break. The descriptive scenes with relatable reflections put this memoir above the rest. Fierce Attachments is a fierce read.
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