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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

October 09, 1994|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

FIFTY DAYS OF SOLITUDE by Doris Grumbach (Beacon Press: $15; 114 pp.) In the winter of 1993, Grumbach, novelist, contributing literary editor of the New Republic, columnist for the New York Times Book Review, and NPR book reviewer, carved out 50 days on the Maine coast of minimal human interaction and mostly uninterrupted time to think. The last time Grumbach had been this alone was decades earlier, and she had been lonely. As before, Grumbach was forced to recognize an unchanging part of her character: "despair is always lurking beyond the circle of the lamplight. . . . When I am among people I have usually been able to forget, or bury, or disguise, my despondency." This time, one of the things she learned was the importance of solitude in taking better care of her friends. "In solitude," she quotes Henri Nouwen, "our intimacy with each other is deepened." In this 50 days, Grumbach sought a road into herself and found it. "Was I all outside?" she wondered in the first days. "Was there enough inside that was vital, that would sustain and interest me in my self-enforced solitude?" Without a doubt, and then some for the rest of us.

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