An essential compendium of midcentury American intellectual life, one that reaffirms the personal and cultural importance of...


A career-spanning collection of essays, reviews, criticism, and more from a co-founder of the New York Review of Books.

As a novelist and co-founder of the immensely influential (and still-running) NYRB, Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) lived at the center of midcentury public intellectual life in America. (She was even married to poet Robert Lowell.) Throughout her six-decade career, Hardwick was devoted to pursuing literature as a way of life and finding life in literature. A quintessential “writer’s writer,” her essays are not academic in style, but neither do they pander to broad public interest or themes. Instead, she writes with a clear, concise voice that is simultaneously accessible and erudite. At the heart of Hardwick’s oeuvre is a study of literature and writers that includes essays on her contemporaries Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and Philip Roth, among others, as well as historical studies of American luminaries Herman Melville, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Perhaps the most relevant essay among the collection is the opening lamentation “The Decline of Book Reviewing.” Written in 1959 for Harper’s, the essay criticizes popular book critics and reviews their soft and moderate tone: “Sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; a universal, if somewhat lobotomized, accommodation reigns. A book is born into a puddle of treacle; the brine of hostile criticism is only a memory.” The sentiment captured by the essay could easily be used as a stand-in for the current climate of book culture, which prizes the market and pleasure of reading to such an infantilizing extent that criticism is nearly obsolete. Contextualized with an introduction by longtime NYRB contributor and author Darryl Pinckney (Black Deutschland, 2016, etc.), who was a creative writing student of Hardwick’s, the essays collected in this volume represent a vital entry point to American literature and culture.

An essential compendium of midcentury American intellectual life, one that reaffirms the personal and cultural importance of literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68137-154-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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