Manual The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick (New York Review Books Classics)

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Melancholy suffuses "Sleepless Nights. The book is most powerful as a remembrance of persons, mostly women, now dead "They are gone, with all their questions unanswered".

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Hardwick recaptures the essence of their lives, examining without compromise "the niceness and the squalor and sorrow. She assembles telling details in the service of building a series of fateful narratives. She produces writing that is in the best sense "novelistic" -- even if the resulting book falls outside the category of a novel. The book is beyond category, and is no less rewarding for that fact. Every few pages Hardwick recounts another love story she either participated in or was a wide-eyed witness to. She refers to them as "love affairs with energy and hope. For example, she describes a temporary roommate in her Manhattan apartment, a gay man who "was one of those who look into new eyes and say: Now I am going to be happy.

These stories are so fully yet economically modeled that you'll swear, by the close of the book, that you've read several novels.

The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick

With Hardwick, the relationships of men and women, of both high and low station, almost always lead to bitter endings. Closest to home, a sad bitterness attaches to Hardwick's own reflections on men, from her earliest encounters among the "couples, looking into each other's eyes, as if they were safe" to her caustic memory, at the book's end, of "a lifetime with its mound of men climbing on and off.

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The author re-envisions the jazz singer's life, starting with a quick sketch of her physicality "the heavy laugh, marvelous teeth, and the splendid head, archaic, as if washed up from the Aegean" , moving on to her performances, then offering the lesson of her early death "she shared the changeling's spectacular destiny and was acquainted with malevolent forces".

A later chapter of the book, Part Nine, stands apart as a remarkable essay about the cleaning women whose lives intersected with Hardwick, as she moved from homes in Maine, Boston, and New York City. The scope of Hardwick's curiosity is wide-ranging, yet three of her interests struck me as noteworthy.

The New York Stories by Elizabeth Hardwick

One is her fascination, or more accurately her obsession, with people's teeth. She introduces new characters with minimal physical descriptions, yet she invariably notes the person's dental health, as if it were a critical component of moral character. Is this a bit of folk wisdom absorbed in her youth spent in the horse-breeding state of Kentucky? A notable item in her bag of writer's resources is her familiarity with farm animals and their behavior, which she freely applies to people.

A Depression-era socialist organizer in rural Kentucky "had the look of a clever turkey. Early in the book she argues for a clear linkage between person and place: In the essays collected here she covers civil rights demonstrations in the s, describes places where she lived and locations she visited, and writes about the foundations of American literature—Melville, James, Wharton—and the changes in American fiction, though her reading is wide and international.

Elizabeth Hardwick wrote during the golden age of the American literary essay. Astringent and unsentimental, these essays span over half a century and, as such, constitute a monumental, if unwitting, autobiography. For they are incorruptible.

  • The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick by Elizabeth Hardwick |
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Their intelligence is prodigious, but never boastful. This major American writer dares, inspires, and cajoles us into reading and writing with renewed conviction and resistance to the meretricious.

The New York Stories

Her ear for language and eye for detail, i. Many of these essays are already classics for their insight and style. The Decline of Book Reviewing 2. Anderson, Millay, and Crane in Their Letters 3. An American Hero 4. The Neglected Novels of Christina Stead 6. Memoirs, Conversations and Diaries 7. America and Dylan Thomas The Subjection of Women Uncollected Stories of Faulkner Meeting VS Naipaul Robert Frost in His Letters Thomas Mann at Wives and Mistresses Bartleby in Manhattan The Sense of the Present English Visitors in America Letters of Delmore Schwartz