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Fierce Attachments: A Memoir (FSG Classics) Paperback – August 25, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Series: FSG Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374529965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374529963
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A remarkable, heart-opening book... I fully agree with the reviews furnished by the trade publications posted above the readers' comments. This is my introduction to Vivian Gornick's work and I like her hugely as a person and as a writer. Occasional mention has been made that she created some composite characters and worked from recollection (quite naturally) to reconstruct memorable conversations with her mother. This in no way detracts from my experience reading Fierce Attachments. I hope she volunteers this information in the preface of future works to avoid needless controversy. (Had she not been speaking frankly to a journalism class, in whose field any deviation from strict factuality is understandably verboten, this issue might not have arisen at all.)
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