Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Elizabeth Hardwick, May 8, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:28 - New York years

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Partial Transcript: Elizabeth, uh, I'd like to talk about the years immediately after your experience at the University of Kentucky when you came to New York.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick loved her experience at the University of Kentucky earning her BA and MA degrees, and felt very prepared for her further graduate work in New York. She looked forward to the opportunity to live in a dormitory, and was able to do that at Columbia. In Lexington, she lived at home with her family while earning her degree. She wanted to live in New York, although she also applied to LSU, where she was accepted. LSU fell through when the college president ran off with the money, earning him the nickname "Jinglepockets." She quit her PhD program.

Keywords: "Jinglepockets"; Columbia University; LSU; Morton White; New York City (N.Y.)

Subjects: Columbia University; Education, Higher; Higher education; Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.); New York (N.Y.); White, Morton, 1917-2016

00:05:17 - Going back home for the summer to write

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Partial Transcript: But I went back home after two years of this to decide to write fiction.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick went home over the summers to write fiction, and went back to school in New York in the fall. The cost of living and going to school was affordable, and made easier with small jobs. She made social connections, and lived for a time with a gay man.

Keywords: Cost of living; Fiction writing; Graduate schools; Homosexuality; Part-time employment; Queer; Roommates; Summer employment

Subjects: Cost and standard of living; Education, Higher; Higher education; Roommates; Summer employment; Universities and colleges--Graduate work; Writing for work

GPS: Columbia University, New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.8075, -73.9626
00:09:09 - Schuyler Hotel

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Partial Transcript: I can't remember exactly, but at some time I moved out of the Columbia scene into the Hotel Schuyler, a squalid dump.

Segment Synopsis: At some point, Hardwick moved out of the Columbia University area. Students did not necessarily move out when they graduated. She moved into the Hotel Schuyler, and had two stories printed in literary magazines. She made a name for herself. She writes slowly and rewrites, so her next book, the "Ghostly Lover," probably took longer than three months to write.

Keywords: "Ghostly Lover"; Columbia University; Harper's Bazaar; Hotel Schuyler; John Woodburn; New Mexico Quarterly; Yale Review

Subjects: Authors.; Columbia University; Harcourt Brace & Company; Woodburn, John, 1901-1952; Writing

00:13:04 - Politics

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Partial Transcript: Well, how about your political interests?

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes how she used to discuss political ideas with others. Phillip Rahv of Partisan Review interviewed Hardwick, and hired her to review books.

Keywords: Book reviews; Franz Kafka; Henry James; Intellectuals; Mensch; New York Times; Partisan Review; Phillip Rahv; Russia; Saul Bellow

Subjects: Bellow, Saul; Book reviews; Intellectuals; James, Henry, 1843-1916; Kafka, Franz, 1883-1924; New York times; Partisan review (New York, N.Y. : 1936); Politics and government; Rahv, Philip, 1908-1973

00:20:44 - The intellectual sphere of New York

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Partial Transcript: Did you find that your, uh, attitudes and ideas went along pretty well with, with Rahv's?

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes meeting a group of people interested in politics at Phillip Rahv's house, and describes the time as a "Jewish intellectual whirl." These intellectuals included Saul Bellow, Hannah Arendt, and Delmore Schwartz.

Keywords: Delmore Schwartz; Hannah Arendt; Jewish intellectual world; New York City (N.Y.); Phillip Rahv; Saul Bellow; The New York family

Subjects: Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975; Bellow, Saul; McCarthy, Mary, 1912-1989; New York (N.Y.); Politics and government; Rahv, Philip, 1908-1973; Schwartz, Delmore, 1913-1966

00:27:05 - Living in Holland

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Partial Transcript: Well, I mean, I left New York for parts of the time.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes living abroad for two and a half years. The first year was in Italy, and the second year was in Holland. Hardwick's husband was interested in the arts. The Hardwicks enjoyed their time, and some of their only friends among the Europeans were from Holland.

Keywords: Antwerp; Belgium; Brussels, Belgium; Holland; Johannes Vermeer; Pieter Bruegel; Rembrandt; Vienna, Austria

Subjects: Antwerp; Belgium; Bruegel, Pieter, 1564-1638; Brussels (Belgium); Netherlands; Vermeer, Johannes, 1632-1675; Vienna (Austria)

00:30:41 - First years in New York

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Partial Transcript: Well, I would like to talk about that more.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick liked school. She does not feel pedantic, preventing her from achieving a PhD. She feels she could have written a dissertation, but that the classes could have been too difficult. After World War II, the time to take a degree became shorter, from about ten years to more like two years. She knew that as a woman, she was not going to be able to be employed in New York. So she had a part-time job in New York working for a publisher, cutting back mystery novels from full size to paperback size.

Keywords: Dissertations; Jobs; New York City (N.Y.); Pedantic; PhD; Work

Subjects: Doctor of philosophy degree; Education, Higher; Higher education; New York (N.Y.); Publishers and publishing.; Women--Employment

00:37:59 - An unsuccessful teaching job

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Partial Transcript: Did you do any teaching?

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes her only foray into high school teaching as a "farce," "teaching stupid girls." She admits that she wasn't sentimental enough to be suited to the job of a teacher, so she only stayed for half a term.

Keywords: Miss Simple's Academy; Riverside Drive; Southern Academy

Subjects: Farce; Teachers; Teaching

00:42:22 - Marriage at age thirty-two / cultural visits to New York City

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Partial Transcript: But, I wasn't anxious to get married. I actually was thirty-two when I got married.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick got married at age thirty-two. She was starting to worry that she wouldn't find the right person to marry, which was more unusual in those days than now. At that time, people used to visit New York from Lexington. Hardwick brought her mother to see "Tobacco Road" on Broadway. People do not travel to New York from Lexington so often any more. New York is expensive and crowded.

Keywords: Broadway; Lexington (Ky.); Marriage; New York City (N.Y.); Tobacco Road

Subjects: Broadway (New York, N.Y.); Marriage; New York (N.Y.)

00:46:06 - Dating a medical student

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Partial Transcript: Now was the medical student after Greer or at the same time?

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick dated a medical student for six years. Hardwick's boyfriend did not associate with her Partisan Review crowd. She did not bring her boyfriends to the Partisan Review parties. She was not romantically interested in anyone from the Partisan Review.

Keywords: Affairs; Columbia College; Columbia University; Dating; Medical students; NYU Medical School; New York City (N.Y.); Social life

Subjects: Medical students; New York (N.Y.); New York University. Medical Center

00:50:02 - Wives of the Partisan Review members

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Partial Transcript: Well you didn't associate with the wives at all, you saw yourself as a--

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes how the wives of the Partisan Review men were not the source of much attention in the meetings. The men brought their wives to the gatherings, but Hardwick did not bring her boyfriend.

Keywords: Partisan Review; Wives

Subjects: Authors.; Partisan review (New York, N.Y. : 1936); Wives

00:53:41 - Susan Sontag and cancer

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Partial Transcript: And now this little book called "Illness as Metaphor" is coming out.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick discusses her friend Susan Sontag's struggle with cancer, and Sontag's book "Illness as Metaphor."

Keywords: Cancer; Chemotherapy; Susan Sontag; Tuberculosis

Subjects: Cancer; Chemotherapy; Sontag, Susan, 1933-2004; Tuberculosis

01:02:46 - Hardwick's father / family life

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Partial Transcript: We talked some last time about your family and home life.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick was very close to her parents. She describes her father as someone who does not like to work too hard, tall, good looking, brown hair, and blue eyes. She describes her mother as someone who worked very hard to care for a large family. Both of her parents died of heart disease. Hardwick's father enjoyed fishing and led a sort of double life, owning a boat that he hid from his family.

Keywords: Family; Fire stations; Fishing; Football; Heart diseases; Herrington Lake; Pinochle; Presbyterian Church

Subjects: Families.; Fire stations; Fishing; Football; Heart diseases in women; Heart--Diseases; Herrington Lake (Ky.); Pinochle; Presbyterian Church

01:14:17 - Hardwick's mother

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Partial Transcript: My mother was a really remarkable woman.

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick's mother worked very hard taking care of her family. Hardwick feels that not being in debt was an important aspect of moral strength, yet she was very generous. Harwick's mother did not want her children to marry young, but wanted them to attend Transylvania University and then become teachers first. Hardwick describes poverty, and gives the view that poor people don't have time to have friends, because they are always working.

Keywords: Debt; Family; July sales; Sewing; Transylvania University

Subjects: Debt; Families.; Sewing; Transylvania University

GPS: Transylvania University, Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0531, -84.4937
01:20:24 - Familial relationships

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Partial Transcript: --call any, uh, particular intimate scenes...

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes being close with her family, but she did not have a very intimate relationship with her family. Hardwick describes her mother as short and fat from having children, quite pretty and attractive.

Keywords: Asheville, North Carolina; Family; Siblings

Subjects: Asheville (N.C.); Brothers and sisters; Families.

01:24:53 - Lack of generosity in some families

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I was rather struck--maybe I told you this before when I came to New York...

Segment Synopsis: Hardwick describes coldness in family relationships among friends and their families. She was taken aback at the lack of generosity from the middle class families she met.

Keywords: Coldness; Family; Lack of generosity; Rigidity

Subjects: Families.; Generosity