Alice James was a tragic yet beautiful soul. You should read about her in this biography.
You can also read about what I thought when I read about her, on Fiction Advocate. I should mention, as a woman living in 2012, I’m still totally jealous of her ability to turn a phrase faster and better than almost anyone I read.
M.Snowe read a book, and had some opinions about it. That book was Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. (The book takes themes and a few plot points from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata–which is a play about Greek ladies refusing to have sex with dudes until the end of the Peloponnesian war. Hot.) So I wrote down what I thought of the book, and submitted it to an online magazine. They were gracious enough to make some awesome edits, then publish it on their website here. It’s a great site, you should check it out.
m.snowe’s “tips” for how to write a book that will invariably be reviewed well by the general/intellectual audience and the media outlets they praise (i.e. NYTimes, NYRB, etc.):
1. Be pretty/handsome in your author photo. Smile into the camera and tilt your head if female. Gaze ponderously (with glasses) and look towards something in the distance if male.
2. Have a long title (so that it eats up review word count and reviewers don’t have to say as much about your book, or alternatively, they can give it a snappy abbreviated title). Example: “The Soul-Crushing Work of Staggering Boredom in Which Everything is Illuminated to Radioactive Levels, Bitch.”
3. Make your book at least partly about race or poverty, and be sympathetic to it. That, or the plight of middle America. Immediately, Oprah will make your book into a made-for-tv movie on HBO, and no reviewer will ever be able to completely hate your book, for fear of being labeled as a racist or upper-class elitist. (But do not think you will get a similar reaction if it’s about gender or neuroscience.)
4. Where appropriate, add “local color.” That can be in the form of cool story framing or the use of accents specific to Southern locales. Do not correct grammatical errors in speech. You’re not being lazy or exploiting a different race/class because, you know, it’s for local color and authenticity.
5. Write well, but not unimpeachably so. Because if you write too well, people will review your book poorly just to be contrarian or self-aggrandizing.
6. Add a spiritual revelation. Laying on of hands and shaking are optional, but encouraged.
–m.snowe just finished reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. While m.snowe for the most part enjoyed reading it (especially the aspects of law, science, racial tension, and privacy), she really hated the sections written in the first person by Skloot. Her interaction with the family, while unavoidable to mention, is covered in a way that is deeply patronizing and self-congratulatory. And considering everybody has been shitting daisies all over this book, she thought someone should mention its flaws.