Goff, in a New York Times essay Friday, says that she often soothes her jangled nerves by reading Elizabeth Hardwick's aptly named "Sleepless Nights."
The novel, one of those books more discussed than read, is an autobiographical account of Hardwick's journey from rural Kentucky to the New York intellectual world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hardwick's reputation lies mainly with her literary essays, although admirers like Groff champion her fiction.
Hardwick deserved a special Nobel Prize for surviving her marriage to poet Robert Lowell and his manic-depressive attacks, infidelities, expropriation of her private letters in poems and condescending belittlement of her talent. The accompanying photo from the Castine, Maine, Historical Society, reveals the light she brought to the stormy marriage.
A writer for Partisan Review and the New York Review of Books, of which she and Lowell were co-founders, Hardwick outlived Lowell by decades, dying at age 91. Her reputation as a novelist and short story writer has risen in recent years, while Lowell's standing as a poet stalled following his death in a New York City taxicab en route to returning to Hardwick.
Like Diana Trilling, the wife of famed critic Lionel Trilling, Hardwick battled for appreciation of her writing outside of her husband's' shadow.
With Hardwick undergoing a revival spurred by the recent re-publication of her work by the New York Review Press, the time could be ripe for a similar re-evaluation of the fiction of Lowell's first wife, Jean Stafford.
Her face ruined by Lowell in a traffic accident, Stafford was later married to the New Yorker's A.J. Liebling, achieving an odd pairing of husbands.
Stafford's novels and short stories, like Hardwick's, are appreciated by connoisseurs as rarefied jewels of a delicate talent.
Lowell's women: Elizabeth Bishop, Stafford and Hardwick, hold a special cove in the halls of American literature. They share perceptive intelligence and precise language that brought new visions.