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Womanning The Battlements

June 18, 1989

Jacob Epstein's review of Ishmael Reed's "The Terrible Threes" (Book Review, June 4) begins with the statement that since the early 1970s, "American writers have all but abandoned the field of social criticism . . . (although a) few writers still man the battlements of satire." To exemplify his main point, he cites the lack of social criticism in the more recent works of Vidal, Roth, Updike, Bellow and Mailer. The exclusion of prominent American women writers from this list suggests that his use of the terms "man" is not merely parenthetical.

Of course, to consider the recent work of American women writers would undermine his point, since Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison (to name a few examples) have all devoted themselves to works of social criticism.

Although it is Epstein's prerogative to limit his survey to the works of prominent American male writers, to leave that gender distinction unacknowledged does a disservice to the works of prominent American women writers, who clearly cannot be included in his account of the new, apolitical literary fashion.

WENDY PEEK

RIVERSIDE

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