Janet Malcolm books, from best to worst.

Notes from a fan who's seen it all.
May 3 2013 6:14 AM

Janet Malcolm, From Best to Worst

Ranking the books by the country’s best magazine writer.

From left to right: The Silent Woman, Iphigenia in Forest Hills, and The Journalist and the Murderer, by Janet Malcolm
From left to right: The Silent Woman, Iphigenia in Forest Hills, and The Journalist and the Murderer, by Janet Malcolm

Courtesy of Vintage; Yale Univ Press; Vintage

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.”
—Two Lives

“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.”
—Reading Chekhov

“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.”
—Two Lives

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

~ Janet Malcolm (author) More about this product
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Alice Gregory is a writer living in New York.

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