Top three quotes from Elizabeth Hardwick’s rather good Sleepless Nights (1979)

sleeplessnightsWhile I did not really appreciate the irony of reading this short novel while lying awake in the small hours of the morning, unable to sleep, that is not to say that there is not much to admire about it. Here are my three favourite bits.

In third place, describing young Louisa, who has the good sense to lie her way into a job for which she is not exactly qualified:

She spoke to someone of having been to college, spoke of typing, of odd experience, meaning only previous work. She said untruthfully that she could certainly take dictation. They put her in a room and turned on a machine. When it went too fast for her rapid longhand, she stopped the machine and played the difficult part once more. Her typed-up dictation was well-received.

She will not do too much or too little and this is what is wanted. She will have an apartment, a lover, will take a few drugs, will listen to the phonograph, buy clothes, and something will happen. Perhaps it will be good – or at least what she likes. (95–96)

In second place, describing the inhabitants of a residential hotel:

Tell me, is it true that a bad artist suffers as greatly as a good one? There were many performers at the Hotel Schuyler, but they gave no hint of suffering from the failure of their art. Perhaps the art had changed its name and came to their minds as something else – employment. (44)

And the winner, found in a passage about a boozy train journey from Montreal to Kingston, but applicable in all aspects of life:

Canadians, do not vomit on me! (9)

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