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Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (Jewish Lives)by Vivian Gornick
Synopses & Reviews
Emma Goldman is the story of a modern radical who took seriously the idea that inner liberation is the first business of social revolution. Her politics, from beginning to end, was based on resistance to that which thwarted the free development of the inner self. The right to stay alive in ones senses, to enjoy freedom of thought and speech, to reject the arbitrary use of power—these were key demands in the many public protest movements she helped mount.
Anarchist par excellence, Goldman is one of the memorable political figures of our time, not because of her gift for theory or analysis or even strategy, but because some extraordinary force of life in her burned, without rest or respite, on behalf of human integrity—and she was able to make the thousands of people who, for decades on end, flocked to her lectures, feel intimately connected to the pain inherent in the abuse of that integrity. To hear Emma describe, in language as magnetic as it was illuminating, what the boot felt like on the neck, was to experience the mythic quality of organized oppression. As the women and men in her audience listened to her, the homeliness of their own small lives became invested with a sense of drama that acted as a catalyst for the wild, vagrant hope that things need not always be as they were. All you had to do, she promised, was resist. In time, she herself would become a world-famous symbol for the spirit of resistance to the power of institutional authority over the lone individual.
In Emma Goldman, Vivian Gornick draws a surpassingly intimate and insightful portrait of a woman of heroic proportions whose performance on the stage of history did what Tolstoy said a work of art should do: it made people love life more.
"'If I can't dance, I'm not coming to your revolution,' declared Emma Goldman, encapsulating a lifetime dedicated to the entwined causes of personal and collective liberation. Focusing on the former, Gornick (The Men in My Life) has written an emotional and sexual biography of the anarchist leader who was known as 'the most notorious woman in America.' A stirring lecturer and valiant advocate for social justice in the U.S. a century ago, here, 'our Emma' is resurrected for the present, with Gornick transposing Goldman's Victorian struggles for personal liberation onto the countercultural and feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s. Eschewing long discussions of political philosophy, or much in the way of historical context, Gornick understands activism as an emotive state: 'Anarchism itself is a protean experience, as much a posture, an attitude, a frame of mind and spirit as it is a doctrine.' Though she believed that free love pursued between equals could never end in jealousy or subjugation, Goldman spent a lifetime in bad relationships. With wit and insight, Gornick urges readers to feel what Goldman felt, to ponder what made her kick against conditions that her contemporaries meekly accepted, and to ask whether things are so different today. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A vibrant, deeply human portrait of a woman dedicated to fierce protest against the tyranny of institutions over individuals, by the celebrated author
About the Author
Vivian Gornick is the author of, among other books, the acclaimed memoir Fierce Attachments and three essay collections: The End of the Novel of Love, Approaching Eye Level, and, most recently, The Men in My Life. She lives in New York City.
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