From the Poetry Center Archive: Susan Sontag and Elizabeth Hardwick
Nick Hornby makes his first appearance at 92Y tonight, taking part in an Unterberg Poetry Center program entitled “First Reads,” where writers are invited to read a work they’ve never read before, then talk about the experience of this literary encounter. For his “First Read,” Mr. Hornby has chosen Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.
The event is a collaboration with The Believer magazine, and Vendela Vida, one of the magazine’s founding editors, will serve as introducer and interviewer.
In anticipation, we wanted to share an archival recording that features a pair of writers whose careers were distinguished, as Mr. Hornby’s has been, by both their fiction and criticism—Susan Sontag and Elizabeth Hardwick. The event took place here at 92Y in April of 1988, with Ms. Sontag reading her appreciation of Lincoln Kirstein, an excerpt from one of her essays on Wagner and something from “AIDS and Its Metaphors,” which at the time was still very much a work-in-progress.
Ms. Hardwick read some selections from her writing on New York City and ended with a longer piece on Dorothy Wordsworth, which she introduced as follows:
It’s a bit Virginia Woolf-ish, with some influence of The Common Reader, where you talk about people, give a little bit of biography and so on, and write in your own way. This kind of criticism is not very much liked by academics—I don’t know if anybody likes it or not—but I very much do, especially if it’s written by Virginia Woolf. When Susan and I were talking about different kinds of essays, I said to her, well, I’m going to read the sort of Virginia Woolf kind. I don’t mean it’s as good as that, but it’s something like the essays in The Common Reader.
In an ongoing effort to share with our readers some of the great literary moments which the Poetry Center has presented across the decades, we have begun to feature regular postings of archival recordings. To purchase tickets to tonight’s event with Nick Hornby, please click here. To look at the rest of the season’s line-up, please click here. And for access to other recordings on our Virtual Poetry Center, including James Wood’s “First Read” of David Foster Wallace from 2010, please click here.
Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.