Margaret Drabble at the TLS:
Rachel Cusk in her introduction (excerpted in the TLS April 18, 2018) makes a feminist case for Ginzburg’s evolution as a writer, citing Virginia Woolf’s conjectures that conventional structures of thought and expression would have to be “swept away if an authentic female literature were to be born”. She claims that Ginzburg “gives us a new template for the female voice and an idea of what it might sound like”. This is true, in a sense, but only in a sense. Ginzburg was not thinking in terms of templates, or of an authentic female literature. In the essay “He and I”, describing her relationship with her second husband Gabriele Baldini, she joyfully embraces various female stereotypes: she has no sense of direction, she doesn’t know how to drive, she is very untidy, she can’t fold blankets symmetrically. (This last peculiarly arresting trait also surfaces in another essay, not included in this volume, as a confession to her psychoanalyst.) Elsewhere she claims she is hopeless at mathematics, useless in the publishing office, bored in the theatre, doesn’t understand music, and is frightened of her maid. She doesn’t know how to knit, is no good at public speaking, and is not very good at writing for the press. In short, she is thoroughly self-deprecating. But at the same time she is also extraordinarily sure of herself. She says she likes to sing, although she always sings completely out of tune. Like many of the characters in her novels, she repeatedly sings the words of songs that she remembers: “I can repeat words that I love over and over again. I repeat the tune that accompanies them too, in my own yowling fashion, and I experience a kind of happiness as I yowl”.