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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 ...


Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... Lowell wrote the poem ‘Water’ about being on the coast of Maine in the summer of 1948 with Elizabeth Bishop; he put it first in his collection For the Union Dead, which he published in 1964. He sent Bishop a draft of the poem in March 1962, explaining that it was ‘more romantic and grey than the whole truth, for all has been sunny between us. Indeed ...

How to do the life

Lorna Sage, 10 February 1994

Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World 
by Carol Brightman.
Lime Tree, 714 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 413 45821 0
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... mess ensued before they established themselves as a grand couple, and she finally ‘mellowed’. Elizabeth Hardwick, a loyal if witty and sceptical friend whose comments always enliven the page and who stayed with McCarthy to the very end, described West succinctly as ‘a husband-type husband’. In handling all the personal material – often ...

I don’t even get bananas

Madeleine Schwartz: Christina Stead, 2 November 2017

The Man Who Loved Children 
by Christina Stead.
Apollo, 528 pp., £10, April 2016, 978 1 78497 148 9
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Letty Fox: Her Luck 
by Christina Stead.
Apollo, 592 pp., £14, May 2017, 978 1 78669 139 2
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... She​ was famous for being neglected,’ Lorna Sage once said of Christina Stead. In 1955, Elizabeth Hardwick, writing in the New Republic, described trying to obtain Stead’s address from her last American publisher. Only a few years before the New Yorker had called her ‘the most extraordinary woman novelist produced by the English-speaking race since Virginia Woolf ...

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 ...


Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... in his 1973 collection, The Dolphin, a number of sonnets based on letters from his ex-wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Lowell had left her, and their daughter, Harriet, for England and Caroline Blackwood; The Dolphin tells, as he put it in a letter to Christopher Ricks, ‘the story of changing marriages, not a malice or sensation, far from it, but ...

Perfect Companions

C.K. Stead, 8 June 1995

Christina Stead: A Biography 
by Hazel Rowley.
Secker, 646 pp., £12.99, January 1995, 0 436 20298 0
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... support: Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Saul Bellow, Theodore Roethke, Lillian Hellman, Peter Taylor, Elizabeth Hardwick in America; Patrick White in Australia. Books previously declined were now published. There were reprints. There was an interest, and it would grow. It was all good, but it had come too late. In 1968 Bill Blake died and Stead was consumed ...

I dive under the covers

Sheila Heti: Mad Wives, 6 June 2013

by Kate Zambreno.
Semiotext(e), 309 pp., £12.95, November 2012, 978 1 58435 114 6
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... the position.’ Her subjects have changed too: the wives are more contemporary and productive (Elizabeth Hardwick, Sylvia Plath). And the text grows more polemical, as when she tells us: It drives me absolutely bonkers that the mythology of Zelda, as endlessly repeated by Scott’s biographers … dictates some narrative that she was not disciplined ...

Why am I so fucked up?

Christian Lorentzen: 37 Shades of Zadie, 8 November 2012

by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 295 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 0 241 14414 5
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... in the New York Review of Books and soon a column in Harper’s. Was she the second coming of Elizabeth Hardwick, or a kinder, gentler James Wood? In ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, she looked at books by Joseph O’Neill and Tom McCarthy. Realism, it seemed, was on the run, and it turned out that novels in English could still be vehicles for ...

And he drowned the cat

Tessa Hadley: Jean Stafford’s Pessimism, 18 June 2020

Complete Novels 
by Jean Stafford.
Library of America, 912 pp., £34, November 2019, 978 1 59853 644 7
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... genius who nonetheless wrote brilliantly, out of their whole autonomy: Lowell’s second wife, Elizabeth Hardwick, for example. Jean Rhys made her genius out of her abjection. Stafford’s marriage to Lowell lasted eight years. Throughout the relationship, he was unpredictable and violent, already manifesting the mental instability which would ...

Eat your own misery

Tessa Hadley: Bette Howland’s Stories, 4 March 2021

‘Blue in Chicago’ and Other Stories 
by Bette Howland.
Picador, 329 pp., £12.99, July 2020, 978 1 5290 3582 7
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... seen the republication of some American women writers of the mid-to-late 20th century, among them Elizabeth Hardwick, Jean Stafford (these two had been better known as Robert Lowell’s wives) and Lucia Berlin, whose luminous short stories seem to me as good as anyone’s. Now Picador have published Blue in Chicago, a collection of stories by Bette ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby, 18 July 1996

The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
by Joan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... in West London. William was 23, Susan Yeats (or Lily, as she was known within the family) was 22, Elizabeth (Lolly) 20. Their father, who had given up the law shortly after he married in order to paint, had very little money; their mother, who had been a pretty, indulged, Sligo girl, and had expected to be comfortable, was disappointed. She gave birth to six ...

Copying the coyote

Richard Poirier, 18 October 1984

The Principles of Psychology 
by William James, introduced by George Miller.
Harvard, 1302 pp., £14.95, December 1983, 0 674 70625 0
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A Stroll with William James 
by Jacques Barzun.
Chicago, 344 pp., £16, October 1983, 0 226 03865 3
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Becoming William James 
by Howard Feinstein.
Cornell, 377 pp., $24.95, May 1984, 0 8014 1617 5
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Essays in Psychology 
by William James, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers.
Harvard, 467 pp., £32, April 1984, 0 674 26714 1
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... print, of The Letters of William James, published in 1920, and in the Selected Letters edited by Elizabeth Hardwick in 1962, recently reissued in paperback. A substantial new collection is needed to confirm the identity of purpose between his letters and the almost equally informal and personal philosophical writings. It would be a logical extension of ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... only to be expected. Even a literary wife as talented as her husband, like the second Mrs Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, finds her work calibrated on the scale of accomplishment not achievement, and the sincerest recognition still hints at the escape from the washing-up or stolen hours while children sleep. Whether you call this condescension or ...


John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... to which Lowell’s censorious biographers pay too little attention, the words of his second wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. She said that ‘texts had been his life.’ A tycoon’s widow might equally say, and in the same spirit, that ‘money had been his life.’ The sharpest point that Marjorie Perloff makes is to quote from Ian Hamilton’s biography of ...

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