"Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories" represents a departure for Pollitt, whose previous works—three essay collections and a volume of poetry—have never included such candid, confessional prose. Taking the advice of her driving instructor, who appears in the book's title essay, Pollitt confronts one neglected observation after another: the observation that her boyfriend of seven years has been cheating on her, for instance, or that her mother is an alcoholic. In her most revealing moments, Pollitt realizes that she suffers from the same self-destructive emotional dependencies that she has been lecturing other women about during her years as a feminist critic.
Readers accustomed to the punchy persona of her Nation columns may feel uncomfortable when faced with Pollitt's vulnerability. But even at her most intimate, she manages to infuse her tales of dissatisfaction and heartbreak with levity and humor. The strongest sections of the book pivot seamlessly from the idiosyncrasies of Pollitt's personal life to her insights into contemporary culture. "Webstalking" analyzes the modern phenomenon of Internet voyeurism by detailing her own obsessive Internet searching of her ex-boyfriend. She writes eloquently about the weightless, hallucinatory quality of her late-night Web surfing, driven by the irrational hope that clicking through enough links will miraculously restore the physical presence of her former lover.
Watching Pollitt level her incisive wit at targets as disparate as Marxism and motherhood makes "Learning to Drive" a rewarding and entertaining read. Read the full review.
San Francisco Chronicle: "Learning to Drive" Is "Rewarding and Entertaining"
Ben Tarnoff reviews Learning to Drive in today's San Francisco Chronicle. From the review: