Is Lydia Millet one of the best living American novelists?

I think so, yeah.

And I wish I had a strong convincing critical essay in me about this subject. But the truth is, I’ve been reading a book a year from her for the last four years, the first two I read are already a little hazy (though enthusiastic!), and I only own one of them.

So I offer only this:

1. I know of no other fiction writer who has successfully engaged with our Ecological Doom Predicament so unpreachily.

2. She writes completely unswayed by the big lie that Economics is the truest, purest lens through which to view the world.

3. I don’t read biographies or watch biopics, and yet I seem to be an ideal audience for these episodic life stories she tells with such a specific lens that it feels completely natural that we should follow the same person so far forward in time.

4. So sharp. So funny when she wants to be.

It’s hard to gauge her popularity. She won a Guggenheim and a PEN-USA, almost won a Pulitzer, many of her books appear on major presses, but I don’t hear much about it when a new book of hers comes out, and she’s not on the radar of many of my friends. So let’s say this of her: Properly Acclaimed but Underread.

My tip for you: Start with either My Happy Life or How the Dead Dream and go from there.

I just finished her second novel, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, which is easily the funniest of the four books of hers I’ve read so far. The sly point this book seems to make is that a citizen who models her own actions on the actions of a world leader would be a cunning, erratic sociopath. It’s as entertaining as it sounds.

The next of hers I’ll be tacking is Ghost Lights, the second in the trilogy began by How the Dead Dream.

Here’s a Lit Pub interview from last year.

Here’s her recent appearance on Brad Listi’s Other People podcast.

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