The Journalist and the Murderer

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A seminal work and examination of the psychopathology of journalism. Using a strange and unprecedented lawsuit as her larger-than-life example -- the lawsuit of Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, against Joe McGinniss, the author of Fatal Vision, a book about the crime -- she delves into the always uneasy, sometimes tragic relationship that exists between journalist and subject. In Malcolm's view, neither journalist nor subject can avoid the moral impasse that is built into the journalistic situation. When the text first appeared, as a two-part article in The New Yorker, its thesis seemed so radical and its irony so pitiless that journalists across the country reacted as if stung.

Her book is a work of journalism as well as an essay on journalism: it at once exemplifies and dissects its subject. In her interviews with the leading and subsidiary characters in the MacDonald-McGinniss case -- the principals, their lawyers, the members of the jury, and the various persons who testified as expert witnesses at the trial -- Malcolm is always aware of herself as a player in a game that, as she points out, she cannot lose. The journalist-subject encounter has always troubled journalists, but never before has it been looked at so unflinchingly and so ruefully. Hovering over the narrative -- and always on the edge of the reader's consciousness -- is the MacDonald murder case itself, which imparts to the book an atmosphere of anxiety and uncanniness. The Journalist and the Murderer derives from and reflects many of the dominant intellectual concerns of our time, and it will have a particular appeal for those who cherish the odd, the off-center, and the unsolved.
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About the author

Janet Malcolm's previous books are Diana and Nikon: Essays on Photography; Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession; In the Freud Archives; The Journalist and the Murderer; The Purloined Clinic: Selected Writings; The Silent Woman: Slyvia Plath and Ted Hughes; and The Crime of Sheila McGough. She lives in New York with her husband, Gardner Botsford.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Jun 22, 2011
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780307797872
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Journalism
Social Science / Media Studies
True Crime / Murder / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A National Book Critics Circle Finalist for Criticism

A deeply Malcolmian volume on painters, photographers, writers, and critics.

Janet Malcolm's In the Freud Archives and The Journalist and the Murderer, as well as her books about Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Stein, are canonical in the realm of nonfiction—as is the title essay of this collection, with its forty-one "false starts," or serial attempts to capture the essence of the painter David Salle, which becomes a dazzling portrait of an artist. Malcolm is "among the most intellectually provocative of authors," writes David Lehman in The Boston Globe, "able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight."

Here, in Forty-one False Starts, Malcolm brings together essays published over the course of several decades (largely in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books) that reflect her preoccupation with artists and their work. Her subjects are painters, photographers, writers, and critics. She explores Bloomsbury's obsessive desire to create things visual and literary; the "passionate collaborations" behind Edward Weston's nudes; and the character of the German art photographer Thomas Struth, who is "haunted by the Nazi past," yet whose photographs have "a lightness of spirit." In "The Woman Who Hated Women," Malcolm delves beneath the "onyx surface" of Edith Wharton's fiction, while in "Advanced Placement" she relishes the black comedy of the Gossip Girl novels of Cecily von Zeigesar. In "Salinger's Cigarettes," Malcolm writes that "the pettiness, vulgarity, banality, and vanity that few of us are free of, and thus can tolerate in others, are like ragweed for Salinger's helplessly uncontaminated heroes and heroines." "Over and over," as Ian Frazier writes in his introduction, "she has demonstrated that nonfiction—a book of reporting, an article in a magazine, something we see every day—can rise to the highest level of literature."


One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013

Los mejores ensayos sobre arte y literatura de una maestra del periodismo.

Uno de los libros del 2013 para el Publisher Weekly y finalista del premio de la crítica de EEUU

La obra de Janet Malcolm figura destacada en cualquier canon de la no ficción contemporánea, con piezas tan brillantes como la que da título a esta antología, con sus cuarenta y un intentos fallidos de comenzar un perfil del pintor David Salle, que acaban componiendo un retrato excepcional del artista. Malcolm está entre los autores más estimulantes intelectualmente, capaz de convertir «epifanías de la percepción en estallidos de conocimiento» como escribió David Lehman en The Boston Globe.

Esta antología reúne piezas publicadas a lo largo de varias décadas, sobre todo en The New Yorker y The New York Review of Books, que recogen su interés por los artistas y su trabajo, pintores, fotógrafos, escritores y críticos. Explora la obsesión del grupo de Bloomsbury por la creación tanto plástica como literaria; las apasionadas colaboraciones que hay detrás de los desnudos de Edward Weston; y la personalidad del fotógrafo alemán Thomas Struth, que vive «bajo la sombra de su pasado nazi», pero cuyas fotografías muestran «ligereza de espíritu». Se asoma a la ficción de Edith Wharton y a los héroes puros de Salinger. «Una y otra vez», como escribió Ian Frazier, «demuestra que la no ficción, un libro reportaje, un artículo de revista, algo que
vemos a diario, puede alcanzar el más alto nivel literario.»

La crítica ha dicho...
«Cuarenta y un intentos fallidos es una obra notable y a su extraña manera fascinante. Consigue algo muy difícil: explicar algo valioso sobre un tema tan inasible como es el proceso creativo.»
Zoe Heller, The New York Review of Books

«Una excelente colección de ensayos. Malcolm probablemente sea la escritora más dotada del periodismo americano.»
Chicago Tribune

«Periodismo inteligente que siempre se nota que ha sido escrito por un ser humano, con un corazón que late, un sentido moral, una curiosidad muy amplia y un punto de vista.»
Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

«Sin duda la obra de un genio.»
Adam Kitsch, New York Times

How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?" Janet Malcolm asks at the beginning of this extraordinary work of literary biography and investigative journalism. The pair, of course, is Gertrude Stein, the modernist master "whose charm was as conspicuous as her fatness" and "thin, plain, tense, sour" Alice B. Toklas, the "worker bee" who ministered to Stein's needs throughout their forty-year expatriate "marriage." As Malcolm pursues the truth of the couple's charmed life in a village in Vichy France, her subject becomes the larger question of biographical truth. "The instability of human knowledge is one of our few certainties," she writes. The portrait of the legendary couple that emerges from this work is unexpectedly charged. The two world wars Stein and Toklas lived through together are paralleled by the private war that went on between them. This war, as Malcolm learned, sometimes flared into bitter combat. Two Lives is also a work of literary criticism. "Even the most hermetic of [Stein's] writings are works of submerged autobiography," Malcolm writes. "The key of 'I' will not unlock the door to their meaning-you need a crowbar for that-but will sometimes admit you to a kind of anteroom of suggestion." Whether unpacking the accessible Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in which Stein "solves the koan of autobiography," or wrestling with The Making of Americans, a masterwork of "magisterial disorder," Malcolm is stunningly perceptive. Praise for the author: "[Janet Malcolm] is among the most intellectually provocative of authors . . .able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight."-David Lehman, Boston Globe "Not since Virginia Woolf has anyone thought so trenchantly about the strange art of biography."-Christopher Benfey
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