Home / Arts / Books / Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Janet Malcolm
Friday, Feb. 21, 2014

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Janet Malcolm

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Janet Malcolm is a writer’s writer, just as we’d suspect from a New Yorker contributor. Forty-One False Starts collects more than a dozen of her essays, including leisurely get-to-know-you pieces on artists she spent time with, such as painter David Salle and photographer Thomas Struth, and reflections on important figures encountered only in their work, including J.D. Salinger and the Bloomsbury circle. In clean, spare yet evocative prose, Malcolm often suggests ambivalence within the sympathy she brings to her subjects. Her best insights often ring with casual brilliance. Writing of the vociferously negative response by critics to Salinger’s Glass family stories, Malcolm points out both their wrong-headedness and their value to later critics as “a kind of radar that picks up the ping of the work’s originality.” 
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