The novelist and essayist Elizabeth Hardwick is one of contemporary America's most brilliant writers, and Seduction and Betrayal, in which she considers the careers of women writers as well as the larger question of the presence of women in literature, is her most passionate and concentrated work of criticism. A gallery of unforgettable portraits-of Virginia Woolf and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Carlyle-as well as a provocative reading of such works as Wuthering Heights, Hedda Gabler, and the poems of Sylvia Plath, Seduction and Betrayal is a virtuoso performance, a major writer's reckoning with the relations between men and women, women and writing, writing and life.
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(202mm x 128mm x 15mm)
Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
A collection of discrete essays always illuminating and enlarging from the particular to convey something beyond the existence of certain women whether in life or the life they assumed through art. In some cases (Zelda's for instance - this on the "inadvertently" shifted focus of Mrs. Mil-ford's success) art for art's sake, not as the brothers Goncourt conceived it, becomes a form of tyranny and Zelda's frenetic energies were scattered in a desperate attempt to prove something - her splintered self. Again art may be the by-product of another kind of entrapment - the self-destructive despair of Sylvia Plath for whom suicide was just another form of assertion. Sometimes creativity is only a surrogate alternative - see Miss Hardwick's lovely piece on the Brontes; battered by circumstances those high-minded, "serious, wounded, longing women" found the outside world was unavailable. Thus in many cases Lionel Trilling's "What marks the artist is his power to shape the material of pain we all have" is only too clearly demonstrated. On the other hand, subsiding into domesticity, never free of the daily vexations of the man around the house or the household, we have the "Amateurs" - Dorothy Wordsworth and put-upon Jane Carlyle, both accessories of greater men. There is a triptych of "Ibsen's Women" - the sympathetic Nora, the meaner-spirited and more ambiguous Hedda, and Rosmerholm's less familiar Rebecca West. The title piece, which is also the closing one, opposes not only seduction and betrayal, but also lust versus stoicism in the 19th century works of Hawthorne and Dreiser and Tolstoy until we reach modern times: "Now the old plot is dead, fallen into obsolescence. You cannot seduce anyone when innocence is not a value." There are gains - there are also losses. . . . One of the cardinal virtues of Miss Hardwick's essays is that she returns us to the intricate, multivalent relationships - always contained within society's "arrangements" - of people that singularly attract us and they are appraised with a fine intelligence and just sensibility. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Elizabeth Hardwick
Elizabeth Hardwick (b. 1916) has been a frequent contributor to The Partisan Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books, which she helped found in 1963. Her books include the novels The Simple Truth, The Ghostly Lover, and Sleepless Nights, the essay collection A View of My Own, and The Selected Letters of William James, for which she acted as editor. Joan Didion is the author of The Year of Magical Thinking and We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction.(December 2008)