Janet Malcolm

For those who want to read a model book review, Dwight Garner has a gentle take-down of Janet Malcolm in the New York Times today.

Reading it brought to mind an interchange I had with The New Yorker many years ago. Listening to Prozac had just come out, and the magazine had given it a slighting mention. The same issue contained an excerpt from The Silent Woman, Malcolm's mordant judgment on the poet Ted Hughes. I wrote the magazine a two-sentence note: "Thanks for the review. Can you arrange for my biography to be written by Janet Malcolm?"

A week later, a New Yorker staffer phoned me. They'd loved my letter. It was posted on an office bulletin board. Tina Brown, who'd just taken over as editor, had decided to feature correspondence from readers. Could they print my note? It would run in the first selection.

I said yes, of course. What a thrill--to appear in The New Yorker as a wit.

A few days later, the same staffer phoned to say that the magazine would not be printing the letter. They had found, he said--and this excuse blew me away--that they did not have enough room.

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