Elizabeth Hardwick, a prolific critic and writer who became a favorite mentor of the young authors Robert Stone and Joyce Carol Oates, has died at the age of 78.
Ms. Hardwick was a pioneering voice who explored the “cutting mind” and the “spirited heart,” and has been praised as a superior successor to E.M. Forster and Victor Hugo.
“There is always going to be a clash of sorts between the very intellectual or philosophical thinker and those who think of themselves as the witty or the ironic or the eloquent, who simply choose to be intuitive,” she once said in an interview. “I’m delighted that I don’t come into conflict with either, but there are times when a lover or a lover of another makes me realize that I do come out on the other side on balance.”
Ms. Hardwick was a white, Jewish intellectual, despite the fact that her own family had suffered under anti-Semitism. In a later lifetime, she had plenty of to say about intolerance.
Born in the Boston suburb of Lawrence in 1931, Ms. Hardwick wrote in a 2007 New York Times Magazine essay that “the battle of the sexes” was a familiar topic for her, but she knew she was never going to become a lady’s maid.
Ms. Hardwick sometimes referred to herself as a “squinty-eyed sardonic liar,” and her private life was no less full of eccentricity than her professional life. She divorced her first husband, the playwright William Mickelson, in 1971, and lived in a trailer in her Boston backyard for more than a decade until she moved to a house next door. In addition to a newspaper columnist, Ms. Hardwick was a journalist, writer for the Village Voice, the New Yorker and Playboy. Her 1983 memoir, A Good Woman’s Work, was an essay collection of short stories, essays and poetry written mostly between 1976 and 1988.
She left journalism for art, and was a member of the International Art Council and the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Swedish Academy. She was also the subject of a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2001.
She spent her later years in La Jolla, California, and hosted an often- acerbic on-air commentary about politics and pop culture. She quit Fox News in 2016 after calling then-candidate Donald Trump “a serial groper.”
“I became considerably allergic to the loathsome Donald Trump,” she wrote in Vanity Fair. “So when I got my hands on an angry New York Times review of his new book, I decided to write a thing about it for the Vanity Fair political blog, TwentyFive, which I used as a platform for firing off a bunch of statements I had seen on cable news and in newspapers. I figured: If he’s on cable, he must be saying something incredibly stupid and stupid.”