Today in Slate, Alice Gregory writes about what she learned from reading everything Janet Malcolm has ever published. Below, she ranks Malcolm’s books from best to worst.
The Books, From Best to Worst
The Collections, From Best to Worst
Janet Malcolm’s Best Lines Not About Journalism
Janet Malcolm’s most famous line is: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” She has more great aphorisms about journalism—but she’s also written brilliantly about other subjects, among them art, biography, and men’s apartments.
“The avant-garde is supposed to be the conscience of the culture, not its id.”
—“Forty-One False Starts”
“Deep mythic structures determine who is likeable and who isn’t among the famous dead.”
“This was the real thing, this was sexism so pure and uninflected it inspired a kind of awe, almost a sort of respect.”
—The Silent Woman
“Biographers rue the destruction or loss of letters; they might also curse the husband and wife who never leave each other’s side, and thus perform a kind of epistolary abortion.”
“John Coplan’s loft, on Cedar Street, has the look of a place inhabited by a man who no longer lives with a woman.”
—“A Girl of the Zeitgeist”
“Stein regards her characters as if from a great distance and, at the same time, seems, in her desperate eagerness to understand them, almost to be taking them in her mouth and tasting them.”