There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Men tend to have a hard time getting out of Sue Miller novels in one piece: They get flung into light posts, wind up with tuberculosis, or get banished from their homes due to some disloyal fuck-up. (The film Inventing the Abbots was based on a Sue Miller story; so, it seems, are most episodes of Cheaters.) Miller’s anger at men nearly rivals Philip Roth’s rage at women, though it’s impossible to confuse the two writers; Miller’s contempt is always waspily polite, even when everybody has their knives out. Her latest novel, The Senator’s Wife, sticks with her usual themes—infidelity, aging, memory—yet the writing bares its fangs more often, men and women are equally problematic, and the novel features some of Miller’s most intensely visceral passages. The plot focuses on Meri, who moves with her husband into a duplex whose other half is occupied by Delia Naughton, the senator’s wife of the title. The Naughtons have been estranged for decades—he’s an unrepentant philanderer—and they negotiate a very tense reconciliation after he suffers a stroke. That sets up the very Miller-esque question of how much Delia owes her no-good man, but the novel is carried by Meri, who suffers a damaging (and disarmingly depicted) childbirth, followed by a trip through a moral minefield in her relationships with both her husband and Delia. The climactic transgression is a surprisingly subtle and forceful one for Miller, who usually prefers just-so morality plays. Who knew she had this emotional firepower at her disposal? What took her so long to find it? Miller discusses and signs copies of her work at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.