The book showcases Miller’s editing prowess as evidenced by what she chooses to omit. She has the ability to draw the reader in with an impressive cannon of literary content, yet trusts her writing enough to inject humor when necessary. In the Land of Men is both tender and painful. It’s power and mercy. If you love literature, novels, or anything that has to do with the written word, you will enjoy In the Land of Men.
'When people show you who they are, believe them the first time,' Maya Angelou once told Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, two decades on, Miller still seems only half-willing to believe, and even less willing than that to pass judgment on, a man who, his prodigious talents and premature death by suicide notwithstanding, did not apparently see or treat women as fully human. It is this reluctance that ultimately renders In the Land of Men a painful and frustrating read ... sometimes seems at odds with itself, it’s because Miller — who can be witty and knowledgeable about the clichés of fiction written by men — apparently regards Wallace as too special and too fragile to have been held to the rules that she applies to others. 'Troubled male genius' is an old trope, but Miller elevates it to new heights ... By the time she tells us that Wallace 'changed the world' and compares him to Alexander the Great, I began to wonder if her praise, fulsome to the point of hagiographic, especially for a writer who elicits as many eye rolls as encomiums, was best understood as her effort to explain to herself why she never told the guy to get lost ... Wallace and Miller’s unequal relationship reads as an allegory for the quiet humiliation that Miller suffered professionally as a young woman. Yet Miller herself, maybe because she is still too close to the subject, or maybe because the tragic nature of Wallace’s death inclines her to dissemble, seems unable or unwilling to fully embrace the connection. Even the conclusions she draws while dealing with Wallace seem misguided.
Miller, 47, writes with daunting authority and suffers no lack of self-confidence ... Her publisher is positioning her memoir as a feminist wail from the male trenches. But, while Miller blasts some unnamed men for sexual assaults, her book is actually a knee-bending homage to one particular man who dominates every page: David Foster Wallace ... A bit too Barbara Cartland-y, but it’s a rare lapse in an otherwise literary-soaked tribute to one man’s memory ... proves that Miller has read widely and deeply ... She commands an astonishing vocabulary, too ... Throughout the book, she employs an eccentric style that would give Strunk and White the bends, adding 'y' to words for no fathomable purpose ... For the most part, though, she makes magic on the page ... If you’re a devotee of David Foster Wallace, you’ll devour this memoir with pleasure. If not, you may enjoy the cultural scavenger hunt and appreciate how much Adrienne Miller makes you stretch.
... lavish with a repulsive combination of backbiting and self-pity, with ample anecdotes cutting famous male authors down to size and citing how massively overworked Miller was while fielding literary submissions all day long ... Ironically, it’s this tell-all element about a famous cult-favorite male author that forms the longest and most memorable portion of an ostensibly anti-patriarchy bit of autobiography, although it’s memorable mainly for how sordid it feels ... you don’t know whether to howl with laughter or outrage at the lack of self-awareness ... could very easily - and perhaps more accurately - have been titled Thoughts of Retaliation, with the primary target being a dead man. Whether it’s left Miller on the right side of things remains to be seen, but her future employers will at least have a more informed idea of what’s being said over the margaritas after work.
Bookworms, former English majors, and anyone tired of Old White Men novels will enjoy the blunt descriptions of petulant literary giants (John Updike), high-brow celebrities (Todd Solondz), and other behind-the-scenes figures (editor Rust Hills). Miller likes to emphasize her level-headed Midwestern sensibility and rarely presents events salaciously. She needn’t, as the awfulness is so explicit ... Miller doesn’t demonize Wallace by airing all his dirty laundry— and there are moments of tenderness here ... In these pages, [Miller] makes space for the respect she was too often denied, both in her professional and intimate life ... The author is, by her own account, very private, and as a result, the book doesn’t really take off until Wallace makes a more definitive appearance about 150 pages in and she shows more vulnerability. This may be the memoir’s most conflicting aspect. There is something unsettling about wanting to give due credit to her identity as separate from Wallace, but it’s hard when this is the most riveting part of the story ... if this memoir is about a woman coming into her own, it’s telling that the result is anger, and that such passages are the most powerful in the book ... Maybe the best way to fight Wallace-as-idol is by pointing out precisely how pedestrian his callousness was. Wallace’s death occupies only a few pages, but it is in her grief that Miller finally allows herself to put her anger into action.
Miller’s description of New York City as perceived by her young, fresh-from-Ohio self is funny and shrewd ... Miller offers a keen and caustic take on the literary universe at a crossroads as the reigning giants, all male, were challenged by newcomers Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace, and as magazines began to be undermined by the first exploratory trickles of the impending digital flood ... her passages recounting blatant and insidious sexism are bracing, and her disclosures about her relationship with Wallace are cathartic. Miller’s love for language and faith in the power of art deepen this finely composed, forthright, witty, and involving memoir of one woman’s triumph in the competitive literary cosmos.
The paradox (for a feminist reader, anyway) is that, while you want to celebrate the story of a woman carving out a space in a culture of male entitlement, there’s no escaping the guilty sense that the book becomes a great deal more lively once the famous male writer takes centre stage ... Miller tries at times to confront [David Foster Wallace's] behaviour, but she offers frustratingly vague analyses of why her younger self found ways to excuse it every time ... too often she finds a way to blame herself for his narcissism ... Whether the book brings us closer to understanding Wallace or his work is debatable, but it is disappointing that in a memoir about a woman’s progress in a man’s world, it is his presence that dominates.
Miller permits the reader to behold the complexities of the renowned writer by sharing intimate details of their relationship. She was his sounding board, his anchor, and his advocate ... Her story is both tender and painful. It’s power and mercy. If you love literature, novels, or anything that has to do with the written word, you will enjoy In the Land of Men.
Miller, who is also the author of the novel The Coast of Akron, is an excellent storyteller and philosopher. She infuses her personal narratives with questions: What does it mean to be a mere cog in a machine, even with an esteemed editor’s title? Is power is really just a false construct? Is appreciation perhaps the most important characteristic to have in a world you can’t control? In the Land of Men is part of the ongoing discussion about how we answer the question: What do we do with the art of bad men? ... Early in the book, Miller contemplates what it means to really know another person, concluding that we never even get close to gaining a full perspective. The people we believe are bad are always loved by someone else. And yet, she counters, 'when thinking in a sentimental way about kings, it is dangerously easy to forget about their power—about the severed heads upon which they walk.'
...[an] intimate account ... This intriguing memoir about the literary life of a female editor working in the 'last-hurrah days' of print magazine publishing will appeal to book nerds and fans of David Foster Wallace.
Many passages movingly recount the sexism [Miller] endured ... Unfortunately, much of the narrative is unfocused and suffers from weak prose ... Many passages read like lines from a romance novel ... Despite her focus on Wallace, we never get a satisfying sense of what made him a unique writer ... Miller’s experience as a woman at a male-dominated magazine is unique, but her rendering is flawed.