Who is Doris Grumbach?

Every three days or so, I check to see if Doris Grumbach is still alive. Doris who? You ask. She may be the greatest memoirist in terms of writing achieved after age 70, six books. We usually wait to remember, but at 98 she’s in my thoughts now. Me, the guy who wrote her back in 2004 on a 3×5 card, told her it didn’t make sense, me scribbling to her in Maine from Palo Alto. She wrote back, sent me books, thanked me for taking the trouble. She writes about silence, prayer, contemplation, mortality, the little objects that move from room to room in our minds, and the huge black crows at the feeder. The stuff that Hollywood can’t sell, won’t sell, the stuff of inner peace and purpose. Doris started out straight, found her truth, became a lesbian, kept writing. Her words are a close examination of all that is, the present moment, mingled with past lives, loves, and friendships that always are, because they were (In a very real way, I find that I am still living with my dead friends). You won’t find her on Twitter or Facebook, she doesn’t have a YouTube channel. I wonder about her lack of fame, perhaps because of gender, because her memoirs are by an elderly hand, because she is homosexual? Most likely because she doesn’t want fame, doesn’t need it like the rest of us stuck in the 21st century. One day soon, I will check and her obituary will be there. But until that moment, thanks to Doris Grumbach, I have learned that, until death, it is all life.

I recommend all of her memoirs, here is a link to the New York Times Review for Fifty Days of Solitude:



7 thoughts on “Who is Doris Grumbach?

  1. Doris Grumbach was my advisor and mentor when I was in college in the late ’70s. I too check every so often to see how and where she is; she was — and I hope remains — fiercely intelligent, completely straightforward, unyielding, disciplined, and a brilliant teacher.


      1. I took four courses with her in all, including two independent studies. She taught us how to read and write, how to weigh every word and to use just that word and not another and not more. She taught us to give the author his “donnée” — to allow the author to treat any subject and to only critique on the basis of how well he succeeded in that treatment. Above all, she taught respect for and careful consideration of writing. I remember her measured guidance, her patience and deep passion, her rare flashes of rueful humor, her dignity of bearing. She was, is, extraordinary.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I was actually on the internet looking once again for any news of Doris Grumbach when I found this. I, like you, look often. I have so wanted to write to her and tell her how much her memoirs have meant to me. I had even contacted one of her daughters to inquire about her but received no response. Her writings are so thought provoking and her presence shines through them all. Again, thank you for this.


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