Book spoilers, sex jokes and other letters to the editor

To the editor:

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

If readers want it, they should read another book. In high school English class, most of us were introduced to the concept of “universality”, which means that an author’s task is to create characters that all readers, regardless of race and gender, can identify with.

As a woman, I am far more concerned about the treatment of women and minorities in decisions about which books to publish and review than I am about their inclusion in books where they do not really belong. I can not count the novels written by men that I have read where I felt that if they were written by women, we would not even hear 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.

To the editor:

John Plotz’s review of Fiona Sampson’s “Two-Way Mirror” (October 31) praises how the book, a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “pushes back against the neglect bordering on memory loss that has fallen upon a poet who once was much celebrated. ”

On the contrary, a Barrett Browning revival has flourished in academia for decades. In the 1990s, in the respected Dictionary of Literary Biography series, Beverly Taylor devoted nearly 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 largely require a place in relevant course syllabi. Also in the ’90s, publishers of the good old Norton anthologies published a critical edition of her long but ingenious “Aurora Leigh.”

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

Kathleen McCormack
Wayne, Pa.

To the editor:

In his review of Evan Osnos’ “Wildland” (November 7), Angus Deaton describes Greenwich, Connecticut, and its “transition from Greenwich of Prescott and George HW Bush to one who greatly favors Trump.”

However, the data do not reflect such a transition. After supporting Republican presidential candidates in 11 of the 12 previous presidential elections, including Mitt Romney in 2012, Greenwich voters preferred Democrats Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 to 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 state-wide GOP primary with over 58 percent of the vote, a majority of Greenwich Republicans voted for other Republican presidential candidates.

Brice H. Peyre
New York

To the editor:

Every Sunday, the first section I reach for is the Book Review. And most Sundays, I spin in frustration over more than half of the fiction reviews because they are filled with detailed plot descriptions. Since this is a consistent practice, I have to conclude that it is an editorial decision combined with sheer laziness on the part of many reviewers.

What happened to sticking to a book’s theme, style, context, and quality (in the reviewer’s consciousness)? A primary joy of reading fiction is turning a page without knowing what to do next. Why ruin it?

Pete Warshaw
Chapel Hill, NC

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 tended to skip Steven Pinker’s 400-page “Rationality” after reading Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky a long time ago, until a line in Anthony Gottlieb’s review (October 31) changed my mind: “His spread of maybe the finest Jewish sex jokes as a tool to explain the concept of ‘confusing variables’ may deserve some sort of prize. “

I have ordered the book.

Steven Lowrey
Chicago

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