I came to Hardwick by way of Cynthia Ozick and am not entirely smitten. Her essays cover a wide range: Mary McCarthy, William James, Christina Stead, George Eliot, Eugene O’Neill, Dylan Thomas, Simone de Beauvoir and more. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, eviscerating and praising in equal part, always with pleasant writing that soothes the eye. She does become tedious in parts, like her takedown of the city of Boston or with her first and second glimpses of David Riesman’s writing and thinking chops.
While I’m conflicted about her tepid review of de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, I did enjoy parts of her scathing:
The Second Sex begins with biological material showing that in nature there are not always two sexes and reproduction may take place asexually. I have noticed in the past that many books strongly presenting feminine claims begin in this manner, as if under a compulsion to veil the whole idea of sexual differentiation with a buzzing, watery mist of insect habits and unicellular forms of life. This is a dramaturgy, meant to put one, after a heavy meal, in a receptive frame of mind. It is the dissonant, ambiguous music as the curtain rises on the all too familiar scene of the man at the hunt and the woman at the steaming pot; the scene looks clear enough, but the music suggests things may not be as they appear.