The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir

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I think I read this one too quickly on the heels of Vivian Gornick’s 1996 collection of essays, because I remembered reading several bits of the 2015 memoir in the earlier book. Regardless, the book is a love letter to NYC, to walking the streets, to the odd friendships that wax and wane in the city. There are some interesting new bits, like the man on the street speaking into a microphone to a crowd about sales being up on sunblock lately because white people, who think they’re superior, “can’t even make it in the fuckin’ sun!” He points at some of them, says “You– the white people. Don’t even belong. On the planet.” Repeated is the bit about the 90 year old woman Gornick yields her seat to, and to whom she says you look fantastic, not a day over 75, and the old woman says “Don’t get smart.” Also the man who lies spread-eagle in the street, what is he doing? Maybe he’s depressed. Also repeated is the dinner conversation restrictions– topics introduced in order to allude, not discuss; 3 minutes on the headlines, 7 on European travel, 2 on current exhibit at MoMA. “Strong opinion was clearly unwelcome, as was sustained exchange.” Final dispute with the book is her mention of the pre-code aviatrix movie, but she mixes up the plot, says the pilot must give up flying after her marriage, but according to searches, the movie is Christopher Strong (with Hepburn), and she has an affair with a married man. Bah, who needs fact checkers for memoirs.

Two potential books to check out as suggested by this– biography of Evelyn Scott (Pretty Good for a Woman) and the inspiration for the title of this one– The Odd Woman by George Gissing.