Insightful essays for literary-minded readers.




A collection of essays by the London Review of Books co-founder, who has been its sole editor since 1992.

Throughout, Wilmers (The Eitingons: A Twentieth-Century Story, 2010) provides astute characterizations of exceptional women, especially writers like Jean Rhys and Joan Didion. There are few personal essays from the acclaimed editor, who came of age during the feminist movements of the 1960s and ’70s, but one example is the brief opening piece, “I Was Dilapidated” (1972), about her struggles with motherhood. “I got depressed,” she writes, “because instead of maternal goodness welling up inside me, the situation seemed to open up new areas of badness in my character.” Most of her essays since then—the final piece, about poet Marianne Moore and her relationship with her prickly mother, was published in 2015—demonstrate Wilmers’ occasionally supercilious yet irresistible seduction with the work at hand, plunging readers into long, involved pieces about writers’ lives, motivations, and peccadilloes. As John Lanchester, who first met her as an editorial assistant in 1987, notes in his ginger introduction, Wilmers is a ferocious reviewer, as shown in her more general essays on the art of writing obituaries (“Civis Britannicus Fuit”), Pears, the “venerable English soap” (“Next to Godliness”), or her own writerly craft (“The Language of Novel Reviewing”). Though the daily work of editing the LRB got in the way of the author’s own writing (a fate most editors will understand), it is in her coverage of women that she truly shines—e.g., “Death and the Maiden,” her look at two books on the life of Alice James, sister to William and Henry (“being a James was a complicated business”). Another notable essay is “Hagiography,” Wilmers’ disapproving yet generous take on Rhys’ last years as delineated by the novelist’s friend David Plante. While the author’s subjects are mostly British and of a certain age, others dear to her heart include Patty Hearst and Freud, which should broaden her reading audience.

Insightful essays for literary-minded readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-17349-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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