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Nobody’s Looking at You brings together previously uncompiled pieces of narrative non-fiction, mainly from the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, by a master of the form.
The title of this wonderfully eclectic collection comes from its profile of the fashion designer Eileen Fisher, from one of her mother’s favourite reproofs. But in every piece in this volume, Malcolm looks closely and with impunity at a broad range of subjects, from the brilliant TV commentator Rachel Maddow to the stiletto-heel-wearing pianist Yuja Wang, from the ‘big-league game’ of Supreme Court confirmation hearings to the battleground of Tolstoy translation.
‘What unites these pieces is a mood—heavy, autumnal, nostalgic…There is stirring, beautifully structured writing here, particularly in the title essay, a profile of Fisher, which combines many of the writer’s signal interests—our unconscious aggression and the way we methodically and unknowingly recreate the world of our childhood in our adult lives.’
‘She is among the most intellectually provocative of authors, able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight.’
‘Janet Malcolm…remains a ruthless, dazzling journalist.’
‘[R]uthlessly artful…[H]er magazine profiles of noted personalities are peerless when it comes to unraveling what makes people tick. She’ll deliver the factual goods with brisk efficiency, while happily leaving mysteries in place.’
‘With no weak selections and several strikingly prescient ones, this collection shows its author as a master of narrative nonfiction.’ (starred review)
‘Every word of Janet Malcolm’s latest nonfiction collection, Nobody’s Looking at You, is a pleasure to read, even if you have no built-in interest in her topics. The author of The Journalist and the Murderer comes off like a proponent of the 'Life is short, eat dessert first’ philosophy, placing her snappiest pieces in the first section…[The essays] show off Malcolm’s way with quick, vivid word pictures…and her gift for the telling detail…[and] reveal the breadth of Malcolm’s wit and insight[.]’
‘Malcolm brings [the] same moral seriousness to every topic she addresses…[H]er calm, brilliant essays are the perfect tonic for our troubled times.’
‘Malcolm’s work inspires the best kind of disquiet in a reader—the obligation to think.’
‘A legendary journalist.’
‘Nobody’s Looking At You is brimful of all the eloquence, erudition and insight a thoughtful reader could want.’
‘If Malcolm’s stories were items of clothing, then you would scarcely be able to see the stitching. So seamless and well-structured are they that the research and hours and effort that must have occurred behind the scenes are virtually undetectable. Nobody’s Looking at You is an enlightening, rewarding read from one of the greats.’
‘Malcolm as a whole sets a gold standard of performance for any journalist…It’s wise to expect the unexpected.’
‘Few writers pay attention with the precision, acuity and patience [Malcolm] has exhibited during her career of telling stories…Her work was hybrid before hybrid was a thing: It balances her skills as a reporter (avid, nosy attention) with those of a scholar (writing about anything, it’s clear she’s read everything), a literary critic (tuned to how language, written or spoken, foregrounds its maker’s gifts and faults) and, above all, a storyteller. She is uncommonly concerned with finding a form that delivers the force of the story she is telling.‘
‘If there were a title for Grand Master of narrative non-fiction then the undisputed champion would be Janet Malcolm…Nobody’s Looking at You is a satisfying read by an excellent writer. Malcolm’s perspective is unique and her voice is so sharp and witty.’
‘The latest collection of essays from the provoative grande dame of US journalism is predictable only in its near-constant ability to surprise: no matter how transparently Malcolm renders her nimble thought processes, each piece winds up somewhere unexpected.’
‘Readers thrill or recoil not at what [Malcolm] says, but at the certain feeling that she could say much worse. Restraint is her drama. Perversity is her mood.’
‘A demonstration of pre-internet-style intelligence: her enquiries are deep rather than broad; she is outward-looking; her view is not flitty nor fragmented; and her pieces proceed always with a sense of lasered focus.’