"Observation is my weakness," writes Katha Pollitt in the title essay of her collection Learning to Drive. It is also her strength. In these 11 essays, several of them published previously in the New Yorker, Pollitt turns her keen eye, sharp wit and elegant prose style to a subject she knows well: herself. Though the essays cover a wide range of subjects -- driving school, Webstalking, motherhood -- they are fundamentally about Pollitt and her milieu, the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
That isn't a criticism. It is a delight to accompany Pollitt to her Marxist study group ("The endless drone of male voices made the sessions simultaneously intense and soporific, like the reading itself, which I had usually not finished and sometimes barely begun," she writes); on a driving lesson, as she zips "up West End Avenue, enjoying the fresh green of the old plane trees and the early-morning quiet"; and to Zabar's as she searches for kitchen items to replace the ones her ex-boyfriend took ("What kind of person walks out the door after seven years with a wooden spoon, a spatula, a whisk?" she asks). Pollitt, a columnist for the Nation, may write as the denizen of a small world, but her wry humor is universal: "Maybe what we think of as our self is just nature's way of making sure our cats have someone to open their cans."
Washington Post Praises Pollitt's "Keen Eye, Sharp Wit and Elegant Prose Style"
In her review of the newly released paperback of Learning to Drive, the Washington Post's Nora Krug approves: