In her 1996 book Approaching Eye Level, writer Vivian Gornick showed herself to be a New York City flaneur who enjoys the experience of moving to the pulse of the metropolis. She is also the author of Fierce Attachments, a biography of Emma Goldman, as well as three essay collections. In this memoir, she reports that her ability to take pleasure in walking has not diminished; only the length (for many years she covered six miles a day) of her sojourns has shortened.
Gornick would have us compare her with the legendary Samuel Johnson who took to the streets of London to make loneliness bearable and to exorcise anger or depression:
"As I saw myself moving even farther toward the social margin, nothing healed me of a sore and angry heart like a walk through the city. To see in the street the fifty different ways people struggle to remain human--the variety and inventiveness of survival techniques--was to feel the pressure relieved, the overflow draining off."
Gornick recounts her friendship with Leonard, a gay man she meets once a week for a walk and talk. "What we are, in fact, is a pair of solitary travelers slogging through the country of our lives, meeting up from time to time at the outer limit to give each other border reports."
They seem to be soul mates with the same capacity to be very critical of others. Witness the author's verbal battle on a bus with a belligerent and uncivil man. Gornick reports that she has been married and divorced twice and is not afraid to admit that she now prizes her hardened heart as a stay against more loss.