Love’s Work is at once a memoir and a work of philosophy. Written by the English philosopher Gillian Rose as she was dying of cancer, it is a book about both the fallibility and the endurance of love, love that becomes real and lasting through an ongoing reckoning with its own limitations. Rose looks back on her childhood, the complications of her parents’ divorce and her dyslexia, and her deep and divided feelings about what it means to be Jewish. She tells the stories of several friends also laboring under the sentence of death. From the sometimes conflicting vantage points of her own and her friends’ tales, she seeks to work out (seeks, because the work can never be complete—to be alive means to be incomplete) a distinctive outlook on life, one that will do justice to our yearning both for autonomy and for connection to others. With droll self-knowledge (“I am highly qualified in unhappy love affairs,” Rose writes, “My earliest unhappy love affair was with Roy Rogers”) and with unsettling wisdom (“To live, to love, is to be failed”), Rose has written a beautiful, tender, tough, and intricately wrought survival kit packed with necessary but unanswerable questions.
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Gillian Rose (1947–1995), who is now recognized as one of the most important and influential critical thinkers of her time, was a British philosopher and writer. For many years she taught at Sussex University, drawing large numbers of research students, before she accepted a chair in social and political thought at Warwick University. Her major works, which ranged from Continental philosophy to Judaism, include The Melancholy Science, Hegel Contra Sociology, Dialectic of Nihilism, The Broken Middle: Out of Our Ancient Society, Judaism and Modernity, Mourning Becomes the Law, and Paradiso.
Michael Wood teaches at Princeton and is the author, most recently, of Yeats and Violence.
“This beautiful memoir comes right from a genuinely thoughtful heart. It is good to find that philosophizing can offer its age-old consolations so present tensely.”
“In its emphasis on the work of living, suffering, and loving, this is a masterpiece of the autobiographer’s art, intense and rationally decorous at the same time.”
“This is not a pastel reverie, but a work in which the author, an English philosopher, feminist, and Marxist, not only bares her soul but carefully dissects it...Rose develops by contrast her notion of love's work: the obligation to go on thinking and caring in spite of the certainty of physical and moral defeat. Gillian Rose died shortly after completing this rigorous and lyrical book.” —The Boston Review
“Powerful...a miracle.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing.” —Boston Globe
“Sears the page it occupies.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“An autobiography of astonishing elegance and concision, it is also deeply lyrical; a love song and a work song.” —Michael Wood
“This beautiful memoir comes right from a genuinely thoughtful heart. It is good to find that philosophizing can offer its age-old consolations so present tensely.” —Elisabeth Young Bruehl
“In its emphasis on the work of living, suffering, and loving, this is a masterpiece of the autobiographer’s art, intense and rationally decorous at the same time.” —Edward Said
“Magnificent...Makes whatever else has been written on the deepest issues of human life by the philosophers of our time seem intolerably abstract and even frivolous.” —Arthur Danto
“This small book contains multitudes...It provokes, inspires, and illuminates more profoundly than many a bulky volume, and it delivers what its title promises, a new allegory about love.” —Marina Warner, London Review of Books
“Heartrendingly beautiful.” —The Times (London)
“A poetic and highly intellectual memoir that encourages us to read the mare's nest of grotesqueries that is our world of pain, illness, and trauma as a birthing-ground for the complex beauty of human relationships.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In a memoir by turns brilliant and exasperating, Rose...travels between the adjoining territories of love and death after being diagnosed with-and receiving brutal and ambiguously effective treatment for-abdominal cancer...It cuts to the quick.“ —Publishers Weekly
“Part intellectual coming-of-age tale and part spiritual memoir, Rose's search for the soul takes her on a wildly dizzying ride through despair and hope, sickness and healing, love and death.” —Library Journal
“I struggle to think of a finer, more rewarding short autobiography than this. Gillian Rose, professor of social and political thought at Warwick University, and dying of cancer at the age of 48, managed to complete and publish this before her time was up.” – Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
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