Considering the toll it takes on me to construct a writing boiled down to within an inch of its life about something I think, punctuate it punctiliously, then figure out too late what I’ve said, much less thought, if anything, it got my attention when Darryl Pinckney said that Elizabeth Hardwick was “a writer who composed prose like poetry.” This doesn’t mean her prose was “poetic,” God grant. I prefer it to mean that her prose partakes of the “exquisite compression and technical precision” that Dwight Garner elsewhere attributes to poetry. That way in my dreams go I on the page.
Of several delicious reminiscences cited in the review of Pinckney’s memoir about Hardwick, there’s one whose sprightly wickedness on the part of a woman who loved gossip keeps cracking me up (note the parentheses; they enhance the mischief):
Then there’s this: “As Hardwick once put it, ‘Reading was such a wonderful thing that to have made a life around the experience was almost criminal it was so fortunate.’” That’s for you, cherished reader. You know who you are.
(Maggie Doherty, “”Elizabeth Hardwick’s Master Class on Literature and Life,” New York Times, 10-23-22; Dwight Garner and Parul Sehgal, “19 Lines That Turn Anguish Into Art,” New York Times, 6-18-21)
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