At first, she lacked a voice, as she once told an interviewer, but as she began to inhabit the essay form, she found multiplying ways to articulate her unusually wide range of interests. “I have always written essays as if they were examples of imaginative writing, as I believe them to be,” she once wrote in an autobiographical sketch.
Her criticism gained attention. “Articulate, witty, very clever, freewheeling, she became a master of the slashing critical style of the politicized literary intellectuals,” wrote William Phillips, Rahv’s co-editor, in his memoirs. “She was one of our more cutting minds, and she made us aware of our faults as well as our virtues.”
As her powers and audience grew, she reviewed all literary forms from novels to nonfiction to plays, and explored an expanding sweep of subjects.