Sight-Readings by Elizabeth Hardwick
American Fictions

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It is only in a country where newness and change and brevity of tenure are the common substance of life," wrote Henry James, "that the fact of one's ancestors having lived for a hundred and seventy years in a single spot would become an element of one's morality." Newness and rootedness are the twin poles of Sight-Readings, Elizabeth Hardwick's brilliant new collection of essays. (Her first, Seduction and Betrayal, was nominated for the National Book Award.) Hardwick's focus here is on American writers, at home and abroad, and especially women, as writers and as characters: Edith Wharton, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Bishop, Katherine Anne Porter, and Joan Didion, among others.
        In sections on Old New York, Americans Abroad, and Fictions of America, Hardwick considers writers and their landscapes, real and imagined. Her essays on Edith Wharton and Henry James illuminate aspects of their inventions of New York. From there she takes us to the Paris of Gertrude Stein and Djuna Barnes, into the hermetic world of Boston Transcendentalism, and on to the suburbs of John Cheever, the America of Philip Roth and John Updike, and the restless expanses of Richard Ford and the Prairie poets.
        Elizabeth Hardwick has achieved a permanent place in American letters for her sharp and elegant criticism. Her essays on American writers are them-selves a work of literature.

About Elizabeth Hardwick

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Elizabeth Hardwick is the author of three collections of essays, Bartleby in Manhattan, A View of My Own, and Seduction and Betrayal, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her novel Sleepless Nights was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Citation from the National Book Critics Circle and the Gold Medal for Belles-Lettres and Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in New York City.
Published June 16, 1998 by Random House. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Her essays on John Updike, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and Richard Ford are deeply perceptive and beautifully written, but when it comes to Joan Didion, Hardwick seems to be making the best of a bad situation.

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Publishers Weekly

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Peering behind New England protofeminist Margaret Fuller's ""dramatic and romantic presentation of herself,"" Hardwick finds an eccentric full of mannerisms, a ""profoundly urban,"" unlikely convert to Transcendentalism, ""which nearly turned her into a fool."" Whether she is plumbing Joan Didion...

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Entertainment Weekly

The author — an essayist, novelist, and stalwart of the New York literary scene for most of the last five decades — has a curiosity about books that makes these 18 meditations both a challenge and a pleasure.

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