This week I’ve been reading Approaching Eye Level by Vivian Gornick for my Women Write Their Lives class. Not since reading Toni Morrison have I been this taken by a writer’s ability to perfectly capture the moods evoked by New York. These are from her essay “On the Street”:
Then my life seems to mirror an urban essence I prize: the dense and original quality of life on the margin, the risk and excitement of having to put it all together each day anew. The harshness of the city seems alluring. Ah, the pleasures of conflict! The glamour of uncertainty! Hurrah for neurotic friendships and yea to incivility!
At other times — when no one is around and no one is available — I stare out the window, thinking, What a fool you are to glamorize life in the city. Loneliness engulfs me like dry heat. It is New York loneliness, hot with shame, a loneliness that tells you you’re a fool and a loser. Everyone else is feasting, you alone cannot gain a seat at the banquet.
My shoulders straighten, my stride lengthens. The misery in my chest begins to dissolve out. The city is opening itself to me. I feel myself enfolded in the embrace of the crowded street, its heedless expressiveness the only invitation I need not to feel shut out.