Elegant ... With this new book, he gives us a window into the vibrant intellectual community that he and Hardwick shared ... An exercise in intimate biography. Rather than presenting an objective account of the subject’s life, intimate biography is subjective and impressionistic; its author relies on anecdote and memory more than facts and sources ... Though never sentimental, the book is in part an elegy for a particular moment in New York’s past and for the people who made the city’s creative scene what it was ... At times painful and poignant, Come Back in September is nonetheless a delight to read, full of deft character sketches and delicious gossip ... I read and reread this book joyfully, catching many of Pinckney’s references, looking up others and letting the rest wash over me like lyrics from a half-forgotten song.
Intimate ... Pinckney conveys a sense of daily life in this now-vanished literary world. But his book is emphatically not a biography ... Pinckney has given us an introspective character study, freewheeling and impressionistic ... An assured handling of themes and techniques he has been working with across his career ... Pinckney’s sympathy for feminine genius, richly elaborated in this memoir, runs through his work like a golden thread ... Pinckney has always been formally ambitious ... Pinckney’s roving style, his impressionist blurring, elevates a society memoir into a kaleidoscopic portrait of 1970s New York ... Pinckney weaves a tapestry of gossip, filled with smatter and chatter ... Pinckney transforms mentor into muse. It is a loving portrait, but not a hagiographic one.
This memoir of that apprenticeship — by one of our most distinguished writers on African American culture, literature and history — provides a 'you are there' account of those thrilling years ... Because Pinckney, now in his late 60s, kept detailed journals in his younger days, he has been able to re-create conversations with 'Lizzie,' as she was known to intimates, while also providing incisive vignettes of the Review’s co-editors ... No reader will be indifferent to the gossipy stories in Come Back in September.
Evocative, hyper-literary ... Mr. Pinckney’s affectionate—if choppy and overlong—look back is reconstructed from memory, notes and journals. He takes us deep into a world in which there’s no such thing as 'too literary.'
For those of us with a toadying and effete interest in midcentury intellectual life, the book is worth reading for the gossip alone ... The ensemble is large, the details extraneous and sometimes indulgent ... It is touching to watch an unusually wise and egoless writer reproduce his anxious adoration toward someone who never stopped being mythic, even when she disappointed him ... He writes to honor the people who made his writing life possible.
Interest in her personal life persists through Pinckney’s book, although he is determined to show Hardwick the writer and genius ... Pinckney’s portrait is exhaustive and exhausting. Even the most avid literary rubberneckers on all manner of topics...will be worn out by the detail and sprawl of Pinckney’s memories ... Pinckney is a sly writer, with the impressionistic brush of a poet but the dedication of a historian. He gets his own one-liners in there too ... It says something about Hardwick’s brilliance that even after reading nearly 500 pages about her, I wanted more.
He’s written a remarkable work of emotional and intellectual balance — Pinckney pinpoints Hardwick’s forcefulness as a critic while elevating the vulnerability that was essential to it ... It is also a book about Pinckney’s own emotional and intellectual development ... Entertaining because it’s rich with New York intellectual gossip and Hardwick’s tart lines ... The book also works because it evokes Pinckney’s process of maturity; its form shows how coming into ourselves is thesis and antithesis, trial and error ... Hardwick is on the cover, not Pinckney; it’s his story, but woven around the influence of others. It’s a memoir of 'we' and 'they,' or, to be more specific, 'she'.
Come Back in September is studded with her thoughts on literature, her verdicts, castigations and enthusiasms. Pinckney tries to capture Hardwick’s spirit and discernment ... His status as a Black, gay, male outsider in this mostly white, matriarchal world of letters is handled with style and a little sharpness, his education not without cost ... By giving us this attentive portrait of a great teacher alongside an account of his formation, Darryl Pinckney finds a way of capturing an age and an approach that feel both vital and distant.
I have a high tolerance for tales of Hardwick’s particular coterie — she was also friends with Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy — but at times Pinckney’s insider view seems a little too elevated and airless ... Fortunately, Come Back in September has a deeper and wider remit ... The vivid, sometimes verbless, telegraphy of Hardwick’s style can still be heard in his prose, though Come Back in September is a baggier sort of book than she might have approved ... Pinckney’s letters and journals do a lot of work towards the end. But this is still a wise, rueful reflection on a lost milieu but an ever more present and essential writer.
The recounted gossip here can be a bit much, yet as the years advance and these luminaries suffer the ravages of age, Pinckney’s affectionate reminiscences capture their lasting brilliance. While Pinckney preserves an observer’s distance between himself and most of these celebrities, his profound 20-year bond with Hardwick glows on the page like warm afternoon sunlight.
A sharp observer, his memoir soars ... Pinckney, a diligent note-taker, often goes on about nothing much here. There is plenty of gossip, much detail about rivalries and animosities, and passages about writers quoting from the work of the masters at one another. At times it is a bit much—dizzying, not always in a good way—and the author’s use of the dash for quotations marks is simply annoying. (Yes, Joyce did it; so, what?) ... Nonetheless, Pickney captures heady times among the New York literati of the period and pays proper homage to his mentor. His book is engaging, well-written, and certain to please the strongly literary minded.
Sparkling ... His prose is entertaining, gossipy, and full of vivid thumbnails yet, in its loose-jointed way, deeply serious about literature and craft ... The result is a captivating portrait of the writing life in one of its richest settings.