Contempt (New York Review Books Classics)

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It was run and written by a number of men and Mary McCarthy, the novelist and critic, who always said, with more good humor than apology , that she was originally invited to join the journal only because she was dating one of the editors, the caustic Philip Rahv. By the time Hardwick met her in , McCarthy was a celebrated figure in the group. The book was widely praised and also widely understood to be autobiographical.

His clothes were thrown over the chair. Shamefully, she peeked. She stroked his back, gently, and lay quietly wondering until suddenly, appalled, she felt violently hungry. In her slip she went to the kitchen and opened a can of Heinz Tomato Soup. Carefully she flavored it with a dash of stale curry powder. What she really wanted was a glass of pure, fresh milk, but the soup restored her tremendous Middlewestern energies and she decided to walk home, even though it was after midnight. When she first read the novel, she had actually written to McCarthy in vague praise of it.

Still, to follow vague praise with the publication of a brutal parody was on another level. She later wrote McCarthy an apology. I did Not mean to hurt you and I hope you will forgive it. But it strains credulity not to suspect that Hardwick knew that this would upset her friend, and did it anyway. No model of sisterhood or solidarity, of course, ever appealed to Hardwick.

Toward feminism, and particularly its second wave, she was only intermittently sympathetic. It is only the whimsical, cantankerous, the eccentric critic, or those who refuse the occasion for such distinctions, who would say that any literary work by a woman, marvelous as these may be, is on a level with the very greatest accomplishments of men. It is also worth noting that this essay was published in , and that Hardwick would go on writing—and writing specifically about women and literature—for another 40 years. Still, if this conviction is where the pistol fired on her own efforts as a writer, one has questions.

After all, for all this protestation, we are still reading Hardwick in a way that we are not, really, reading Irving Howe.


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Moravia made a great stir in world literary circles after World War II by announcing his conversion to Roman Catholicism, which had given him solace and protection during the German occupation. Among his more recent publications is They separated in Alberto Moravia. Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa. The Tomb. Phillips Lovecraft. Casanova's Homecoming, in English translation. Arthur Schnitzler. Senso and other stories. Camillo Boito. Works of Vernon Lee. Vernon Lee. The Human Form in Art. Adolphe Armand Braun. Impressions of a Decorator in Rome, Illustrated.


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