The new york review of books

Formidable woman of letters: the grit and wisdom of Elizabeth Hardwick

In an author’s note at the beginning of her biography of Elizabeth Hardwick, Cathy Curtis warns that she has included ‘only as much information’ about Hardwick’s ‘famous husband, the poet Robert Lowell, as is necessary to tell the story of her life’. Ironically, this caveat highlights Hardwick’s status as another wife of the poet. There’s no question that her tumultuous marriage and singular divorce from Lowell were major events in her literary career, but it’s disappointing that in this very first biography of Hardwick, Curtis offers so little argument for her literary and cultural importance. Admittedly, that’s no simple task. Although she is highly regarded as a productive literary critic,