Book Spoilers, Sex Jokes and Other Letters to the Editor

Universally Accepted

To the Editor:

In his recent review of Amor Towles’s wonderful “The Lincoln Highway” (Nov. 7), Chris Bachelder says, “The book lacks a prominent female traveler and readers might wish…”

If readers wish that, they should read a different book. In high school English class, most of us were introduced to the concept of “universality,” which holds that the job of an author is to create characters with whom all readers, regardless of race and gender, can identify.

As a woman, I am far more concerned about the treatment of women and minorities in decisions about which books should be published and reviewed than I am about their inclusion in books where they really don’t belong. I can’t count the novels written by men that I’ve read where I felt that had they been written by women, we wouldn’t even be hearing about them.

It is depressing to realize that the creative process and literary criticism are now falling victim to political correctness.

Lupi Robinson
North Haven, Conn.

Barrett Browning’s Legacy

To the Editor:

John Plotz’s review of Fiona Sampson’s “Two-Way Mirror” (Oct. 31) praises how the book, a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “pushes back against the neglect, bordering on amnesia, that has descended on a poet once widely celebrated.”

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    On the contrary, a Barrett Browning revival has flourished in academia for several decades. In the 1990s, in the respected Dictionary of Literary Biography series, Beverly Taylor devoted almost 30 pages to her. In 1995, Angela Leighton and Margaret Reynolds published their anthology of “Victorian Women Poets,” whose 66 pages of Barrett Browning’s poetry pretty much demand a place in relevant course syllabuses. Also in the ’90s, publishers of the good old Norton anthologies put out a critical edition of her long but brilliant “Aurora Leigh.”

    Plotz’s hope that “Two-Way Mirror” will “inspire a new generation of readers” neglects the past 25 years, during which students of Victorian poetry would have needed an especially stubborn amnesia to avoid the possibility of finding inspiration in Barrett Browning’s poetry.

    Kathleen McCormack
    Wayne, Pa.

    Greenwich on Trump

    To the Editor:

    In his review of Evan Osnos’s “Wildland” (Nov. 7), Angus Deaton describes Greenwich, Conn., and its “transition from the Greenwich of Prescott and George H. W. Bush to one that largely favors Trump.”

    The data reflect no such transition, however. After supporting Republican presidential nominees in 11 of the 12 previous presidential elections, including Mitt Romney in 2012, Greenwich voters preferred the Democrats Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 over Trump, each time by a decisive margin. Similarly, Greenwich’s Republican voters showed less enthusiasm for Trump than other Connecticut Republicans in 2016; while Trump won the statewide G.O.P. primary with over 58 percent of the vote, a majority of Greenwich Republicans cast ballots for other Republican presidential candidates.

    Brice H. Peyre
    New York

    Lose the Plot

    To the Editor:

    Each Sunday, the first section I reach for is the Book Review. And on most Sundays I squirm in frustration with more than half of the fiction reviews because they are littered with detailed plot descriptions. As this is a consistent practice, I must conclude that it is an editorial decision coupled with sheer laziness on the part of many reviewers.

    What happened to sticking with a book’s theme, style, context and quality (in the reviewer’s mind)? A primary joy in reading fiction is to turn a page not knowing what’s going to happen next. Why spoil that?

    Pete Warshaw
    Chapel Hill, N.C.

    A Variable Walks Into a Bar

    To the Editor:

    I have often decided to read books based on reviews in the Book Review, but never before because of a single sentence.

    I was inclined to skip Steven Pinker’s 400-page “Rationality,” having long ago read Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, until one line in Anthony Gottlieb’s review (Oct. 31) changed my mind: “His deployment of perhaps the finest of Jewish sex jokes as a tool to explain the concept of ‘confounding variables’ may deserve some sort of prize.”

    I have ordered the book.

    Steven Lubet

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