On Shirley Hazzard
Shirley Hazzard is enjoying a renewed spotlight: Picador is reissuing the National Book Award-winning The Great Fire this September (9781250239426) and FSG is publishing an brand-new collection titled Collected Stories (9780374126483) in early March 2020.
Shirley Hazzard, best known for her fiction (including The Transit of Venus, which won the 1980 NBCC Award for Fiction and The Great Fire, which won the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction), and her longtime contributions to The New Yorker, is a cult figure with wide-ranging fans including Joan Didion, Lauren Groff, Ann Patchett, Rumaan Alam, and many more
Hazzard continues to inspire new readers, and in a recent Bookforum article, Alice Gregory wrote: "Late last year, I read Shirley Hazzard’s 1980 novel The Transit of Venus for the ﬁrst time. It moved me to a degree no book ever has. It was more a life event than a reading experience. And so I read it again. And then I read it once more. And then, as a prophylactic against reading it for a fourth time, I read all her other books." (https://www.bookforum.com/print/2602/shirley-hazzard-and-the-joy-of-solitude-21986)
With great insight and tenderness, Michelle de Kretser (award-winning author of The Life to Come, Springtime, Questions of Travel, and more) joyfully examines the life and work of Shirley Hazzard, a writer she feels strongly connected to “by right of admiration” and through their shared connection to Australia and Australian literature
On Shirley Hazzard is a book for any reader familiar with the feeling of being profoundly changed or seen by a work of art or literature—like de Kretser writes: "A book comes to find you at a particular season of your life. Afterwards nothing is the same."
Reading On Shirley Hazzard feels like being invited in to de Kretser's Shirley Hazzard–specific commonplace book and given an intimate tour. The book is broken into short, digestible sections that range from a probing analysis of Hazzard’s politics in fiction to a brief, celebratory section highlighting some of her best adjectives, simply titled “Lessons in Adjectives,” that highlights just how pleasurable this book is to read:
The ‘incisive fronds’ of a laurel.
A ‘furled poplar’.
An ‘administrative smile’.
A father’s ‘hard, omnipotent arms’.
‘The floral English summer’.
There are many lines from this book that represent de Kretser's intimate style of literary criticism; one of the best is this: "Words that recur in Hazzard's writing: human, mercy, revelation."
The book objectively assesses Hazzard’s work with keenly drawn examples, but it is also unabashedly and wonderfully personal. De Kretser movingly captures the intense connection a reader develops with a writer through their work alone: “I remember books that entered my life like events; like meetings with strangers whom one recognises instinctively as friends.”
Shirley Hazzard's work is frequently taught in courses on twentieth-century fiction alongside Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf, making On Shirley Hazzard a strong candidate for academic adoption, supplementary reading group material, and more
On Shirley Hazzard will of course appeal to fans of Hazzard, de Kretser, and similar twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers; it’s also for fans of strong literary criticism, Princeton University Press’s Writers on Writers series, and more. Packaged in a beautiful small hardcover edition, On Shirley Hazzardis a perfect gift for writers and readers, and a platform to reestablish Shirley Hazzard as a major author of the twentieth century and introduce her work to a new audience