Fifty Days of Solitude

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FIFTY DAYS OF SOLITUDE follows Grumbach’s recent memoirs, EXTRA INNINGS and COMING INTO THE END ZONE. It is a fascinating account of a month and a half in the winter of 1993 that the author spent living alone in her house in Maine, with only books, music, a radio, and that frighteningly reflexive pronoun, myself for company. During this time she kept in touch with her companion, family, and friends through correspondence, avoiding telephone conversations and personal meetings; she traveled to a nearby town only to run essential errands and to attend church services. This self-imposed exile was an experiment that Grumbach hoped would enable her to get in touch with her interior voice, which she felt had been silenced by the presence of others in her life. Isolated, she sought to escape her need to please others, the restraints and requirements of social acceptability, and the influence of critical opinion on her writing.

At first she fears madness and loneliness, yet she appears to have escaped both. In the silence of a harsh Maine winter, Grumbach begins to look at familiar surroundings in a fresh, new way, as if discovering the world around her for the first time. Her writing flows, uncensored by her automatic editor, and she begins to enjoy the process of creating without concern for how it will be received.

FIFTY DAYS OF SOLITUDE contains finely etched profiles of friends and acquaintances, insightful discussions of literature, painting, and music, and an honest account of Grumbach’s discoveries about herself.