PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewFor \'a fairly conspicuous woman,\' as Millay once called herself, her mature diary is notably impersonal. The more dramatic entries have already been mined by Nancy Milford in her 2001 Millay biography, Savage Beauty. Much of Rapture and Melancholy is more prosaic ... Millay rarely reflects upon herself, her marriage, her many love affairs or her poetry in these later pages. Even the final, devastating entries chronicling her morphine use are just dosage lists. (Epstein notes that there are “a hundred” such lists, which remain uncollected.) Are we getting the whole story? ... These diaries ought to change our understanding of Millay — not for what they reveal, but for what they withhold.
MixedNew York Times Book ReviewThe Hardwick-Lowell marriage comprises the heart of A Splendid Intelligence...despite an early disclaimer that we won’t hear much about Lowell ... Curtis...complicates our understanding of Hardwick’s feminism, such as it was, noting that she was less complacent about women’s struggles than she appeared ... Curtis treats Hardwick’s work with respect and admiration, though her detailed, dutiful summaries of essays and fiction sometimes grow tedious, and come at the expense of historical context and literary insight ... If we get too many details about the work, we sometimes get too few about the life. Curtis skims over Hardwick’s childhood and adolescence in Kentucky and her relationship with her parents, who are shadowy figures here. Alarming suggestions of sexual assault are dropped into the narrative and left to sit, unexplored ... I wanted to know more about Hardwick’s sustaining friendships with McCarthy, Sontag, Rich, Bishop and Arendt — legends whose names appear often, but mostly in outline. Curtis quotes from letters among these brilliant women, but does not really probe the deeper currents of their affections, alliances and rivalries. Still, I finished this book with a strong sense of Hardwick’s resolve and intelligence. Hardwick, who hated biographies, might have approved.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... [an] engrossing, necessary book ... this is not an empirical study. Rather, it is intimate testimony from someone who has lived through an illness long shrouded in silence, shame and sin. Antrim speaks with the moral authority of the survivor ... Antrim’s inventive, circular prose style reflects his sense of warped time: Hours bend, fragment, compress, extend. The narrative catapults forward, then backward—a kind of chronological whiplash that dislocates us in time and place ... Just when we start to put the pieces of Antrim’s life together, he wrenches us away from the relief of comprehension. The medium is the message: Suicide, as Antrim understands it, is a continuum of emotional pain ... One hopes this brief, courageous book will bring us closer to the \'paradigm shift\' Antrim seeks—a reckoning that could bring about better funding for mental health research, more affordable psychiatric beds and less societal stigma.
Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell, Ed. by Saskia Hamilton
PositiveThe Harvard ReviewIn Saskia Hamilton’s extraordinary edition, The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979, Hardwick is unmistakably the heroine. Her voice is stronger, more sympathetic, and, finally, more interesting than Lowell’s ... The letters reveal—as if there were any doubt—how much Hardwick kept Lowell’s life ticking, even after he had left her for Blackwood. She has a hard time condemning him: she excoriates him for his ruthlessness in one letter, only to apologize for her bad humor in the next. Sometimes these vacillations take place within the same letter ... Loving and losing Lowell was something Hardwick had to bear many times. The Dolphin Letters reveals how very difficult it always was.