Monday, May 14, 2018

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for more than fifteen years.

She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.

The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek. Miller was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Lapham's Quarterly and

Her second novel, Circe, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

Recently I asked Miller about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Verdun Affair, by Nick Dybek. I was surprised to be sent an advanced copy of this novel, since I usually receive ancient war books, not modern ones. But I did what I always do: read the first page to see if it grabbed me. And it did! The novel is set after the first World War, and focuses on a former ambulance driver who is collecting the bones of the dead in the French countryside. It is a haunting set up, which Dybek draws out beautifully, giving us a narrator who can evoke both the mundane and devastating aspects of the task. It is a book about big things: memory and war, about the effect of unfathomable violence on our human psyches, about love, and the struggle to move forward after trauma. But what really drew me in was the characters. So often books that have such sweeping scope aren’t grounded in specific men and women struggling with hopes and griefs, but Dybek manages to make both the characters and the ideas sing. I was with him the whole way, drawn in by his insight and elegiac, understated prose. Coming out officially June 2018.

The Unstrung Harp, or Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel, by Edward Gorey. Let’s be honest: I’m always reading Mr. Earbrass. It is the most brilliant and hilarious book about writing a novel that I have ever found. In it, Mr. Earbrass is a hapless yet somewhat famous author, beginning his new book (titled The Unstrung Harp—the title is chosen at random from a list of them he keeps in a drawer). We follow him through its creation to publication and beyond, and every page is funnier than the last, all serving up Gorey’s trademark mordant humor, his absurd and evocative art, but also a potent examination of the artist’s journey. I have so many favorite moments that it is hard to choose one, but I often think of Mr. Earbrass approaching his final edits with “a vast reluctance” because the manuscript has become “physically repulsive” to him. That’s why I have to love what I’m writing about so deeply: otherwise I could never get through the grueling rounds of revision! Gorey’s combination of skewering and sympathy makes for the perfect antidote to what ails any artist.
Visit Madeline Miller's website.

See Madeline Miller's top ten classical books.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue