This is a little book, written in a modest style, but its claims are large. Despite her title, Ginzburg wants us to set aside the “little virtues” of frugality, caution, and tact for the greater ones of love, courage, and generosity. The essays were written between 1944 and 1962 in the wake of personal and national tragedy, including the wartime murder of her husband by Italian Fascists and the suicide of her friend Cesare Pavese, but they carry that weight almost without speaking of it. “Almost” is the key, though: she does speak of such things, but on her own terms, in her own everyday language, making it clear that she thinks her life—its achievements as well as its sorrows—is no different from anyone else’s. The essays are marvels of human decency and strength.
—Tom Nissley, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA