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Firm Lines

Hermione Lee

17 November 1983
Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... Elizabeth Hardwick’s terms for the mind at work are revealing. In an essay called ‘Domestic Manners’ which begins with the question ‘How do we live today?’ she reminds us of the duplicity and elusiveness of styles. Just as they seem to ‘the defining imagination’ to look like solid historical facts, they shift and collapse ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd

10 August 2000
Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking from which the most committed Boswellian might recoil. (Though it’s fascinating to speculate what might have happened if Rahv and Mary McCarthy had made ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again

10 August 2016
Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... and was engaged to Parker’s cousin Anne Dick. That year’s programme included studying 75 Elizabethan plays; Anne, who didn’t set foot on this Mount Athos, was told to read Troilus and Cressida and post her comments. Lowell returned them with tart annotations. ‘I loved being mocked so wittily,’ she reported. Why did they go along with it? ‘My ...
2 March 2000
No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... Lowell – during a bout of mania – announced to the world that he was about to leave his wife, Elizabeth Hardwick, in order to marry a young Italian he had fallen for. He quite often made announcements of this kind, when mad, but this time he decided to deliver the good news in person to Jarrell. Of the encounter that ensued, Jarrell’s widow has ...

Proudly Reptilian

Nicole Flattery: Kevin Barry

12 September 2019
Night Boat to Tangier 
by Kevin Barry.
Canongate, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 78211 617 2
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... the novel, that Maurice is tying a large brick to himself and preparing to walk into the sea. As Elizabeth Hardwick wrote, ‘Novels that are profoundly about illicit fornication have a way of ending on accidents, illness or death.’ Night Boat to Tangier is no different. Maurice, like his father before him, ends up in a mental institution that he ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers

19 April 2017
... and before I even read the piece I felt victorious, because the issue opened with an essay by Elizabeth Hardwick. The glamour of the moment was helped when Barbara Epstein came to my party at the Old Town Bar. She walked in clutching a copy of the paper and proceeded to smoke all my cigarettes, speaking about Lizzie and Wystan and how a good piece ...
19 May 1983
Robert Lowell: A Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... where he ran amok, insulting generals and riding the equestrian statues. His second marriage, to Elizabeth Hardwick, was essentially an enduring one, and her devotion and intelligence illuminate and support this biography. Other women promised a new leaf, and eventually there was the romance of a departure for England: ‘a new alliance’, as he put ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid

14 June 1990
Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... Among her admirers, who tend to be wholehearted and fervent, the feeling is that Elizabeth Bishop has not yet received anything like her critical due. Things are improving – in the United States more rapidly than over here, where admission to the Pantheon seems as slow and grudging a process, and as prone to archaic shibboleths and mysterious blackballings, as election to a Pall Mall club ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party

8 February 2018
... was it because, by getting inside the White House, he had exposed them for failing to do the same? Elizabeth Drew in the New Republic dismissed Fire and Fury: ‘better books’, she said, would be published soon. Better books? She mentioned David Frum’s Trumpocracy as an example, with its less than thrilling subtitle ‘The Corruption of the American ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers

10 November 1988
The Faber Book of Seductions 
edited by Jenny Newman.
Faber, 366 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 571 15110 8
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Journeys to the Underworld 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 226 pp., £10, October 1988, 9780701132231
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... are a thing of the past. ‘You cannot seduce anyone when innocence is not a value,’ Elizabeth Hardwick said in ‘Seduction and Betrayal’, with the clear implication that it is not a value now. In fact, the only innocence about which we still obviously care is the innocence of children: and there is no doubt that, unlike adults, children ...

The South

Colm Tóibín

4 August 1994
One Art: The Selected Letters of Elizabeth Bishop 
Chatto, 668 pp., £25, April 1994, 0 7011 6195 7Show More
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... Flamingo Park and went out some days to swim at Copacabana. It was that time between the death of Elizabeth Bishop and the appearance of the first biography and this volume of letters, when the ordinary reader on this side of the Atlantic knew very little about her. I did not know that for 15 years she stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach. ‘It is ...

Long live the codex

John Sutherland: The future of books

5 July 2001
Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future 
by Jason Epstein.
Norton, 188 pp., £16.95, March 2001, 0 393 04984 1
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... then wife, Barbara, and an editor at Harper’s, Robert Silvers, plus Robert Lowell and his wife, Elizabeth Hardwick, Epstein launched the New York Review of Books. Like Anchor Books (and everything Epstein has invested himself in), the New York Review made a conscious attempt to raise the intellectual tone of American cultural life (to raise it, at ...
7 November 1985
Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... that is – or perhaps one should say as reading matter. Reviewing Peter Manso’s Mailer, Elizabeth Hardwick went into the question, moral and aesthetic, of the taped book. The genre, with Mayhew as its godfather, began with the best intentions. ‘The sequential interviewer is likely to reign over the text in the benevolent and more or less ...

The Pink Hotel

Wayne Koestenbaum

3 April 1997
The Last Thing He Wanted 
by Joan Didion.
Flamingo, 227 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 00 224080 7
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... but only barely. It is no surprise that one of Joan Didion’s most attentive readers has been Elizabeth Hardwick, whose own work, like Didion’s, is never merely essay or novel, even if, for the occasion, the work must pretend to be one or the other. Elizabeth Hardwick’s review of a theatre production is as ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters

22 September 2005
The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... these annotations are puzzling: on Palm Sunday, 10 April 1949, Lowell wrote a brief note to Elizabeth Bishop, a sympathetic message to his first wife, Jean Stafford, a weird word or two to a former lover, Gertrude Buckman, a sentence to George Santayana and two sentences to William Carlos Williams. Of these communications, those to Bishop, Buckman and ...

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