A collection of essays by the editor of the London Review of Books. Underlying all these essays is a concern with the relation between the genders: the effect men have on women, and the ways in which men limit and frame women's lives.
Human Relations & Other Difficulties collects 23 of her pieces for the LRB and starts with a surprisingly personal one ... The next few pieces gently and expertly warm up the reader, ranging from reflections on obituaries in The Times to a wonderful digression on Pears Soap and the Pears’ Cyclopaedia ... It is not Wilmers’ style to be prescriptive, but when she does deliver a rant, it’s good stuff, as when she deplores the epidemic of kindness tainting the once-gladiatorial book review ... Taken collectively, these essays summon up the lives of women, mostly writers, who kicked against the barriers, using whatever means they could ... Human Relations & Other Difficulties has a bite, and it makes you wonder what Wilmers would have produced if she had given her own writing as much time as she gave to the words of others.
Most of the pieces are book reviews, and all but three were written for the LRB; only occasionally does Wilmers venture into strictly personal territory, most notably in a zinging delve into the menopause ... What’s most striking about Human Relations, though, is how much Wilmers has to say about women, and often women of a particular kind: what we’d now call the dysfunctional ... Wilmers is harsh but, one suspects, fair.
...sure-footed ... Wilmers is a summa cum laude graduate of the Joan Didion-Elizabeth Hardwick-Janet Malcolm school of dispassionate restraint and psychological acuity. She can do more damage with a raised eyebrow than most critics can do with a mace. Her wit steals in like a cat through an unlatched window.