Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers

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Malcolm, it seems, exists in a state of constant battle with her chosen art — she is, perhaps, every bit as tortured as the artists she studies. She invariably allows a little of her own personality to leak onto the page and mingle with those of the subjects. Thanks to frequent insights and witty asides, often inserted into the narrative encased in protective parenthesis, a Malcolm interview can often reveal as much about the interviewer as the interviewee. And the reader, seduced by a writer at the very apogee of her talent, cannot help but laugh along with her.

But I think the world has changed now. No point in being sad about that. And Helen Garner has nothing to be embarrassed about in her own writing. She is as clear as fast-flowing ice melt, and is bridging this changing world. View all 3 comments. Jun 02, Wendell rated it liked it.

Malcolm turns out to be a spirited, articulate advocate for the much-maligned J. Malcolm and the New York Review of Books , where the review first appeared, struggle madly to turn obscurity into a virtue in this piece, but it doesn't really work. All that happens when the air gets that rarefied is that people are liable to start gasping for breath. Malcolm is one of the last, great New Yorker writers left standing -- not to mention the patron saint of genuine investigative reporting -- and she's one of the finest prose stylists ever to work in American English.

View 1 comment. Jul 08, WB1 rated it it was ok. The first sentence in Janet Malcolm's controverisal book, "The Journalist and the Murderer," is probably the most provocative line she's ever written.


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  • Forty One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, by Janet Malcolm?

The book was about the relationship between Jeffrey MacDonald, convicted of murdering his family, and Joe McGinnis, the writer who pretended to befriend him. The sentence is, "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. To some degree, journalists and I'm one , know that Malcolm is right. The first essay in this book, about the artist, David Salle, was so annoying that I almost tossed the book aside.

Not so much because of what she says about Salle he's predictably vain, vulnerable, funny, scared and furious about two critics, Hilton Kramer and Robert Hughes who hated his work. If anything.. Malcolm seemed to spend months following him to his studio, to restaurants, parties, etc etc. The essay starts to revolve around Malcolm rather than Salle.

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And Malcolm is just not that interesting. But the longest essay in the book, "A Girl of the Zeitgeist," is about Ingrid Sischy, and her role as editor of Artforum. The essay runs on and on and on. By the end, you actually know more about some of the terrible artists featured in Artforum whom Malcolm clearly disdains than Sischy herself. And, in the end, you know very, very little about Janet Malcolm. Except she has a certain smugness that's distasteful. View 2 comments. Aug 13, Catherine rated it really liked it.

Janet Malcolm takes the idea of "review" and "critique" to a different level.

Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers

She truly is an original thinker and an incisive critic. I disagreed with almost everything she wrote in this collection, but, boy did she make me think. I was outraged, humbled, and enervated. I really want to have lunch with her. May 26, Faith McLellan rated it really liked it Shelves: writers , nonfiction , art. Janet Malcolm is a genius.

Her gifts are on full, and often chilling, display here. Full of erudition, razor-sharp judgments, icy observations. Learned and scary and admirable. Would not want to be on her bad side. Agree with other readers that the last two "chapters" are disastrous additions--are there any editors left? The chapter on Bloomsbury perhaps the best. I have read this collection over a day or so and feel as if run over by a truck--in a good way. May 10, Pamela rated it it was amazing.

I reviewed this book over at The Millions clickable link. Oct 22, Terry Pitts rated it liked it Shelves: essays. There is certainly much to praise in these sixteen essays on artists and writers, such as Thomas Struth, J. Malcolm knows how to keep the reader continually intrigued, sometimes to the point that we can't see exactly where her trail of bread crumbs is leading us. And she's a precise writer, who always seems to find the exact word or phrase that fits her subject and distinguishes her sentence.


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Malcolm is essentially a biographe There is certainly much to praise in these sixteen essays on artists and writers, such as Thomas Struth, J. Malcolm is essentially a biographer, writing in these essays about the lives of people who create. As someone who believes deeply in psychoanalysis, Malcolm seems to want to get to the root of their creativity, but she never succeeds - perhaps because it simply isn't possible.

For example, Malcolm is always pushing to watch visual artists at work. She wants to watch artists in the studio painting or in the field photographing, as if this will reveal something secret about the act of artistic creation. It's doesn't. And for all of her interest in the visual arts, she never closely examines or provides her personal insight to any single work. That's not true for writers, whose work Malcolm can and does closely analyze. The title essay is a great example of Malcolm's unique approach to biography. Its consists of forty-one segments, each of which appears to be a completely new attempt to begin an essay about the painter David Salle.

It isn't clear whether this was a way to echo Salle's collagist approach to painting or whether it reflects an uncertainty about either Salle the man or his work, but it makes for a fascinating bit of reading. Lurking in these essays are hints at some of the issues that have made Malcolm such a controversial writer - the slight arrogance, the occasional phrase of contempt, the New York fascination with social status and money.

Janet Malcolm's latest book shows her mastery of the life in fragments - The National

A quarter of the book is taken up with a long piece on ructions at an eighties New York art magazine, a subject on which I would struggle to give less of a toss. And yet, when it's all processed through the eye of Janet Malcolm, it becomes fascinating; a case study of the passing of cultural authority from education to money, a sketch for a novel by the WASP Iris Murdoch of an alternate universe, a typological prefiguration of the cable series about the Melody Maker which nobody will ever make.

Her questing intelligence reminds me of Montaigne, but where for all his curiosity he was always ultimately looking inwards, Malcolm needs to turn her gaze on the world. Indeed, the book ends with a fragment from an abandoned autobiography in which she confirms just that. It's a shame, of sorts; I am far more interested in her than in most of her subjects.

But so long as she keeps letting that analytical mind play, the subjects it finds don't really matter.

Apr 25, Genevieve rated it it was ok Shelves: reviewed-nonfiction , reviewed , nonfiction. Some say the best-written reviews and critiques reveal something about the critic as much as the subject being reviewed. With that criteria, you would think Forty-one False Starts by Janet Malcolm would be brilliant, the writing being so self-absorbed. But all the other essays in the collection didn't really keep my attention. It could be my limited knowledge of the contemporary art world, which is Malcolm's area, and is a world itself that is self-absorbed and insular.

Sorry, this book wasn't for me, though I may not have been registering the writerly brilliance in its full form due to my lukewarm interest in the subject matter. Jun 27, Blaine Harper rated it it was ok. But I read those for class, so the interesting part of observing Malcolm's writing tics is over and done with.

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The title essay was so pretentious that I, even as member of the expected audience, felt alienated and bored. And I'm morally opposed to the writing of seven-page essays with two full pages' worth devoted to block quotes see The Woman Who Hated Women. Mar 18, Sarah Yasin added it Shelves: chesterton. Malcolm makes good sentences. While enjoyable to read, some ideas in this volume are stuck in the past, which is a shame any time an intelligent writer lingers in the past salman rushde comes to mind.

Specifically, when she differs with Chesterton, claiming there is no more pure white virtue since Hitler, only grey "decency. Jun 05, refgoddess rated it really liked it Shelves: to-finish. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed.

Description Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Salt Selected Stories and Essays.

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