If Hardwick tells us too much, she would be betraying her project. She gives readers the facts of a situation—she shows us a woman teary-eyed in a fourth floor walk-up, but doesn’t tell us what it means. She gives us the aftermath of an affair, but doesn’t bother to tell us whom it was with. Hardwick is consistent in her inconsistency. She condenses whole years into a sentence and narratives into a paragraph, but then she’ll spend four pages talking about a doctor who once cured her.
Derrida says to give something a genre is to limit it. Genres are self-constituting. Artistic works always exceed the genre in which they are classified. A text participates in a genre, but doesn’t necessarily belong exclusively to it. Genre can always exceed the boundaries that bring it into being. Sleepless Nights is, essentially, a book of essays linked by a common narrator. As readers, we seek a story, but it has no plot and myriad settings. Yes, it is based in New York, but mid-book, the narrator takes us back to the south, and then towards the end, we are thrown into other worlds: Holland, Amsterdam. Sleepless Night plays with form and narration—it cannot be defined, and I have no desire to constrain it; I must let it grow. So I keep it on my shelf at eye-level. I keep it where I can see it.
Thumbnail image is from here.