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National Book Award winner raves about Bill Miller's book in The New Republic

By John Masson
July 13, 2012

Perhaps Professor Emeritus Ted St. Antoine put it best, after getting a look at the latest review of Michigan Law colleague Prof. Bill Miller's latest book, Losing It:

"I don't think Homer, Shakespeare, or Dante ever came close to a review like that," St. Antoine said with a laugh, after spotting the review in the July 12 edition of The New Republic. "It was quite extraordinary. And it's coming from a highly respected source, as well."

"Highly respected" may be an understatement. Sherwin B. Nuland, the review's author and a professor of surgery at Yale, won the National Book Award in 1994 for his groundbreaking book How We Die.

Nuland calls Losing It, all about the pitfalls of aging, a "tour-de-force of hypochondriacal free association." And that's just for starters. Nuland also reproduces, in full, the book's 18th-century-style subtitle—"in which an aging professor LAMENTS his shrinking BRAIN, which he flatters himself formerly did him Noble Service/A Plaint, tragi-comical, historical, vengeful, sometimes satirical and thankful/in six parts, if his Memory does yet serve"—which may be the first time reproduction of the complete subtitle has ever been successfully attempted.

For his part, Miller tried to take the review in stride. But clearly, it wasn't easy.

"I don't even want to say much about it. It's beyond my wildest dreams," he said. "I wouldn't dare even let myself fantasize about a review like that, lest it provoke the wrath of the gods. I still think the gods might try to make me pay for that review."

St. Antoine, however, while acknowledging Miller's ample gifts as a writer, was also able to find a whimsical downside to the review.

"I have suggested to him," St. Antoine said, "that he simply must stop writing now, because he'll never be able to top that review."

Read more about Miller and Losing It.

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