Elizabeth Hardwick’s Master Class

Darryl Pinckney writes: ‘Elizabeth Hardwick, born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1916, left graduate school at Columbia University because she wanted to write. I don’t remember if she told the class that or not. Her first novel, The Ghostly Lover, was published in 1945. The first thing I ever read by her was the opening chapter of Sleepless Nights, the novel she was writing then under the title The Cost of Living. That stunning first chapter was published in The New York Review of Books while I was in her class. She told me later—it has been one of the honors of my life to have studied with her and to have benefited from her generous conversations about literature down through many years—that Stuart Hampshire wrote her at the time to say that the chapter was so amazing he couldn’t imagine how she’d be able to go on from there. As a beginning, it was an impossible act to follow. She said she found out that he was right and she ended up breaking up the chapter and redistributing it throughout the novel.’

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