For me, the year's main, if belated, discovery has been the work of the American journalist, essayist and literary critic Vivian Gornick, probably best known for The Romance of American Communism (1977). On holiday this summer, I read her personal essays in Approaching Eye Level (Beacon Press, $18) and The Men in My Life (MIT Press, $14.95), a collection of pieces on some of the most dazzling male writers of the 20th century. Whether she is writing about a friendship that has gone wrong or the work of James Baldwin, Gornick brings a rare honesty, appropriate anger, striking precision and great tenderness to her subject.
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