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This title in other editions

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers


Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A National Book Critics Circle Finalist for Criticism

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

Janet Malcolms 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 Bloomsburys obsessive desire to create things visual and literary; the “passionate collaborations” behind Edward Westons 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 Whartons fiction, while in “Advanced Placement” she relishes the black comedy of the Gossip Girl novels of Cecily von Zeigesar. In “Salingers 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 Salingers 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

About the Author

Janet Malcolm is the acclaimed author of many books, including In the Freud Archives; The Journalist and the Murderer; Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial; Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (for which she received the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography); and Burdock, a volume of her photographs of a “rank weed.” Malcolm writes frequently for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Ian Frazier  Forty-One False Starts Depth of Field A House of Ones Own The Woman Who Hated Women Salingers Cigarettes Capitalist Pastorale The Genius of the Glass House Good Pictures Edward Westons Women Nudes Without Desire A Girl of the Zeitgeist Advanced Placement The Not Returning Part of It William Shawn Joseph Mitchell Thoughts on Autobiography from an Abandoned Autobiography

Product Details

Malcolm, Janet
Farrar Straus Giroux
Frazier, Ian
Criticism -- Theory.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies
Reference » Writing » General

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