Elizabeth Hardwick’s Manhattan streets are poetry incarnate…


From The Book:

In the New York stories—and in each scene within each story—we find individual destinies set against the drifting, shifting patterns of city life. The mental weather, familiar from Sleepless Nights, has been externalized. “The city people,” Hardwick announces, “are as strong as athletes and in elevated spiritual condition, too.” These are tales of everyday life, but New York is a heroic landscape, so the most casual events are enlarged. “The Bookseller” opens on an evening in November. Excitement is in the air. “People have stopped going to their country places for the weekend because, it is said, there is too much going on in the city.” On the Upper West Side, “the cafés are steaming, and from the restaurant doors garlic floats toward the hoods of cars waiting for the light.” In another story, this one takes place in December, a scene is set at Fairway Market in the West Seventies, where a writer whose conservative political views are much in demand “stands in the line to buy an apple [and] feels the breath of opinion on his back.” In the blocks between Times Square and the main branch of the New York Public Library, at 42nd and Fifth—which is the setting for yet another tale—“there is something hot and tropical about shoddy, dusty, fatigued little business places in which the winter air seems rich with summer flies.” And one evening on the East Side, when the moon over Lexington Avenue is “outclassing every miracle,” the teller of the tale, who lives on the West Side, admires the stores which “were at last closed and where many little shoes and blouses were enchained for the night’s sleep.”

“Back Issues”, Jed Perl, The Book