Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review
Vivian Gornick: The Hardened Heart
I have loved these people . . . and all for the same reason. I am hungry for the sentence structure in their heads. It’s the conversation between us that makes me love them. Responding to the shape of their sentences, my own grow full and free: thought becomes expressive, emotions clarify, and I am happy, happier than at any other time. Nothing makes me feel more alive, and in the world, than the sound of my own mind working in the presence of one that’s responsive.
Approaching Eye Level
HB: In Approaching Eye Level you wrote, “I love my hardened heart — I have loved it all these years — but the loss of romantic love can still tear at it.”
How do you harden your heart?
VG: I meant to say hardened against romantic self-deception, against sentimentalizing, against being blinded. Women like me who became feminists decided, however great the pull of romantic love, however necessary it is to love, not to push ourselves out of shape, not to put ourselves into exile. If that is what threatens, I will harden my heart against it.