Drawing on writing from the course of her fifty-year career, this book illuminates one of the driving themes behind Gornick's work: the painful process of understanding one's self that binds us to the larger world.
Gornick’s essays in Taking A Long Look still feel fresh ... they are rendered with a forcefulness and clarity that is absent from so much essayistic writing today. Many contemporary essays tend to fizzle or prevaricate; lacking a clear organizing principle, they loudly announce their own incoherence, or lay claim to an authority that feels unearned. By contrast, Gornick’s essays are slow burns—bristling with urgency, but careful to gather evidence before reaching for an insight. At the point of revelation, when the essays snap sharply into focus, the effect can be dazzling, almost incandescent ... If something chafes in her writing, it is her stiffness—the muscular, held posture of a constant pugilist, a writer who approaches her work as a matter of life and death. Her sentences are significant, not suggestive; the effect of all that concentrated power can be enervating. Still, there’s an appealing expansiveness to her thinking. Gornick’s roving, telescopic eye takes in aspects of the culture, considers them prismatically, then assimilates them into her own theory of the world. What is felt in Gornick’s essays is the joyful rhythm of a mind working out ideas on the page ... Taking A Long Look reminds us why, but more importantly, how, the essay—at its most taut and fully-formed—can be spectacular.
Gornick (85) is a shrewd, droll and avowedly feminist essayist and critic. These previously published writings, collected in reverse chronological order (from the late 2010s to early 1970s), offer a fascinating insight into what has been achieved and what has been lost during those five decades ... Her presence on the page is less overt in the literary criticism published since 1999. Reading her crisp, incisive prose, there is no doubt about how she feels about the work of such canonical figures as Herman Melville, Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt, but she becomes less incendiary over the years ... This intelligent, sometimes provocative, collection of essays will send you back to the bookshop or down a Google rabbit hole.
... a collection of essays on literature, culture, feminism, and New York. Many things work against this collection, including the fact that because these essays have been republished decades after their original appearance in other publications, the book feels anachronistic ... But to look at the past is to be able to retrospectively thumb through a map of our movement ... In a moment when equality is being watered down across the world, such reminders are not only helpful but necessary. These essays, thus, function as a literal archive, whose relevance and anachronism can both be measured in their distinction from the present. To show us how far we have moved ... an uneven collection, and it does not pretend to be anything other than a disorganized set of essays ... The collection may, however, fail to impress the unacquainted, who may not have the patience for essays that elude a running thread ... To read Gornick is to firstly fall in love with the act of reading ... Every writer wants to be read, but few writers seem to believe in the strength of reading as much as Vivian Gornick. It is incredible what she can read out of material.