Walter Hardy is a youngish, handsome, and fashionably athletic writer of popular romance novels, and he numbers among Clarissa Vaughan's many literary acquaintances. In fact, Clarissa likes him quite a bit, despite the fact that her closest companions—her partner Sally and her friend Richard Brown—think that Walter is obnoxious and shallow. As Clarissa thinks to herself:
Little in the world is less mysterious than the disdain people often feel for Walter Hardy, who's elected to turn forty-six in baseball caps and Nikes; who makes an obscene amount of money writing romance novels about love and loss among perfectly muscled young men; who can stay out all night dancing to house music, blissful and inexhaustible as a German shepherd retrieving a stick. (1.25)
So, why does Clarissa like him?
Truth be told, Walter is a lot like Clarissa herself. Walter lives his life joyfully and exuberantly, and Clarissa appreciates that. She admires other things about him, too: the support that he gives to charitable causes; the mentorship he provides to younger writers; the way he takes care of his partner, Evan, who is living with AIDS. The novel's narrator sums it up this way:
These days, Clarissa believes, you measure people first by their kindness and their capacity for devotion. You get tired, sometimes, of wit and intellect; everybody's little display of genius. She refuses to stop enjoying Walter Hardy's shameless shallowness, even if it drives Sally to distraction and has actually inspired Richard to wonder out loud if she, Clarissa, isn't more than a little vain and foolish herself. (1.25)
Dance on, Walter Hardy: Dance on.