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Introduction by Helen Garner
Forty-One False Starts is a brilliant collection of essays from one of the world’s great writers of literary non-fiction.
Janet Malcolm, writes David Lehman in the Boston Globe, ‘is among the most intellectually provocative of authors, able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight.’
The essays, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, reflect Malcolm’s preoccupation with artists and their work. Her subjects are painters, photographers, writers, and critics. She delves beneath the “onyx surface” of Edith Wharton’s fiction, appreciates the black comedy of the Gossip Girl novels, and confronts the false starts of her own autobiography.
As the Guardian has said, ‘Her books bring a gimlet-eyed clarity to often fraught and complicated subjects and are so lean, so seamless, so powerfully direct, they read as if they have been written in a single breath.’
‘Janet Malcolm is one of our great non-fiction writers; her work shows that a magazine article, something we see every day, can rise to the highest levels of literature.’
‘Malcolm’s work inspires the best kind of disquiet in a reader—the obligation to think.’
‘A legendary journalist.’
‘No living writer has narrated the drama of turning the messy and meaningless world into words as brilliantly, precisely, and analytically as Janet Malcolm…Her influence is so vast that much of the writing world has begun to think in the charged, analytic terms of a Janet Malcolm passage.’
‘She is among the most intellectually provocative of authors, able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight.’
‘Malcolm’s lacerating wit soars…fearless and sparkling.’
‘a powerfully distinctive and very entertaining literary experience’
‘her portraits of the storytellers, with their squirmy foibles and agendas, are glorious’
‘Forty-One False Starts is a remarkable and, in its strange way, gripping piece of work. It achieves the rare feat of communicating something valuable about the largely ineffable “creative process.”’
‘Janet Malcolm…remains a ruthless, dazzling journalist.’
‘there’s nothing like watching a master at work…Malcolm’s trademark is the precision and elegance with which she identifies the heart of the matter in question’.
‘This is a well-laid challenge to readers to open their eyes to how they read, and how to judge.’