Book review: Ron Charles reviews ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ by Sue Miller

Book review: Ron Charles reviews ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ by Sue Miller:

I didn’t much like Sue Miller’s first novel, The Good Mother. “But what did she EXPECT would happen?” I kept asking myself. “What was she thinking?” As a result, I haven’t read any of Miller’s subsequent novels.

But Ron Charles’s review of Miller’s latest novel, The Lake Shore Limited, has changed my mind. This is partly because he puts Miller’s work into a larger perspective:

There are several contenders (Anita Shreve, Gail Godwin), but Sue Miller might be the best poster child for the poison condescension bestowed by the term ‘women’s literature.’ She didn’t publish her first novel, ‘The Good Mother’ (1986), until she was in her 40s, but since then she’s been prolific and popular (another mark against her), writing about families and marriages, infidelity and divorce — what we call ‘literary fiction’ when men write about those things. Last year, a grudging review of ‘The Senator’s Wife’ in That Other East Coast Newspaper claimed that Miller’s novels ‘feature soap-opera plots,’ a mischaracterization broad enough to apply to any story that doesn’t involve space travel or machine guns.

Miller’s exquisite new novel, ‘The Lake Shore Limited,’ is so sophisticated and thoughtful that it should either help redeem the term ‘women’s literature’ or free her from it once and for all.

But it’s also because Charles describes Lake Shore Limited as containing “the relentless psychological analysis found in Henry James’s novels.” Centered around 9/11, the novel uses the device of a story within a story (in this case, a play within a novel) to examine “with stark honesty” what Charles calls “emotional terrain some people won’t feel comfortable in.” Since literature IS psychology, this sounds like a book I must read.

Twain died 100 years ago today

Twain died 100 years ago today | Book Blog | STLtoday:

In His Private Books, Signs of Mark Twain as Critic

In His Private Books, Signs of Mark Twain as Critic –

By the end of his life, Samuel Langhorne Clemens had achieved fame as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi, a globe-trotting lecturer and, of course, the literary genius who wrote ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and other works under the name Mark Twain.

He was less well-known, but no less talented, as a literary critic. Proof of it has resided, mostly unnoticed, in a small library in Redding, Conn., where hundreds of his personal books have sat in obscurity for 100 years. They are filled with notes in his own cramped, scratchy handwriting. Irrepressible when he spotted something he did not like, but also impatient with good books that he thought could be better, he was often savage in his commentary.

This article in the New York Times reports on “this little-known side of Twain’s life: “In honor of the centennial of his death on April 21, the library granted The New York Times permission to examine this trove of books and record notes and markings Twain left behind in their margins.”

Yet another example that you can tell a lot about a person by the notes in the margin.

2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama and Music

2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama and Music –

Coverage of news-related Pulitzer Prizes can be found here.