Elizabeth Hardwick, the critic, essayist, fiction writer and co-founder of The New York Review of Books, who went from being a studious Southern Belle to a glittering member of the New York City intellectual elite, died Sunday night in Manhattan. She was 91.
Her death, at a Manhattan hospital, was confirmed today by her daughter, Harriet Lowell.
Known mainly as a critic, and credited for expanding the possibilities of the literary essay through her intimate tone and her dramatic deployment of forceful logic, Ms. Hardwick nevertheless resisted easy classification. Although born into a large Protestant family in Lexington, Ky., she had her eye on New York City and its culture from an early age.
“Even when I was in college, ‘down home,’ I’m afraid my aim was — if it doesn’t sound too ridiculous — my aim was to be a New York Jewish intellectual,” she told an interviewer in 1979. “I say ‘Jewish’ because of their tradition of rational skepticism; and also a certain deracination appeals to me — and their openness to European culture.”