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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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... ElizabethHardwick’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 ...

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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... orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary 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 ...

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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... In love as in friendship Lowell was controlling and vulnerable, caring and neglectful, destructive and helpless to fix the damage. He was married three times: to Jean Stafford from 1940 to 1948, to ElizabethHardwick from 1949 to 1972 and to Caroline Blackwood from 1972 to his death in 1977. With Hardwick he had a daughter, Harriet, and with Blackwood a son, Sheridan; he was also stepfather to Blackwood ...
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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... make the mistake of exposing Jarrell the friend to one of his own frequent manic episodes. In 1956, Lowell – during a bout of mania – announced to the world that he was about to leave his wife, ElizabethHardwick, 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 ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers

19 April 2017
... the Boy’s Own stories of my youth. I was 29 when my first book was discussed in the New York Review and before I even read the piece I felt victorious, because the issue opened with an essay by ElizabethHardwick. 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 ...

Proudly Reptilian

Nicole Flattery: Kevin Barry

12 September 2019
Night Boat to Tangier 
by Kevin Barry.
Canongate, 224 pp., £14.99, June, 978 1 78211 617 2
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... sex is exuberantly described and pleasingly dirty – but you can’t shake the sense, throughout the novel, that Maurice is tying a large brick to himself and preparing to walk into the sea. As ElizabethHardwick 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 ...
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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... Perhaps the wildest of these works was his descent, on a government-sponsored trip, to Buenos Aires, where he ran amok, insulting generals and riding the equestrian statues. His second marriage, to ElizabethHardwick, 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 ...

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 ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party

8 February 2018
... mostly about the media in the past, had stolen a subject from the seasoned political reporters. Or 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 ...


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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... to make the same sort of point: seductions, which begin with fine words and end with desperate recriminations, are a thing of the past. ‘You cannot seduce anyone when innocence is not a value,’ ElizabethHardwick 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 ...

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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... in bloom. The city was full of desire. It was hot. I stayed for a while in a narrow street near the 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 ...

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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... The absence of the paper’s advertisement-stuffed books supplement left a tempting gap. With his then wife, Barbara, and an editor at Harper’s, Robert Silvers, plus Robert Lowell and his wife, ElizabethHardwick, 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 ...
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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... says, ‘is Greek Tragedy, but this is worse – much much worse.’ Yes much much worse. As literature, that is – or perhaps one should say as reading matter. Reviewing Peter Manso’s Mailer, ElizabethHardwick 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 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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... of the thin blue line between catatonia and competence – that twilit state when one is ‘coping’, but only barely. It is no surprise that one of Joan Didion’s most attentive readers has been ElizabethHardwick, 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. ElizabethHardwick’s review of a theatre ...

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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... to which they apply by no means always show signs of what Lowell called ‘enthusiasm’. And occasionally 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 ...

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