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Brigid Brophy, 15 April 1982

Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession 
by Janet Malcolm.
Picador, 174 pp., £1.95, February 1982, 9780330267373
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Psychoanalytic Psychology of Normal Development 
by Anna Freud.
Hogarth, 389 pp., £15, February 1982, 0 7012 0543 1
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Record of a Friendship: The Correspondence of Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill 
edited by Beverley Placzek.
Gollancz, 429 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 575 03054 2
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... destroys faith in personal relations and explains why they are tragic: we cannot know each other. Janet Malcolm does not suppose that her distress about a fact will stop its being a fact. Neither is she part of the Freud-processing industry, whose ambition is to pop Freud into the blender and dish up something bland. Hers is a legitimate cry of wounded ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... and making a face, she’d offer a defining word after each name:Gloria Steinem – phoneyJanet Malcolm – pretentiousRenata Adler – crackpotSusan Sontag – nobodyNora Ephron – liarOther hand:Kenneth Tynan – creepTruman Capote – leechGeorge Plimpton – slickTom Wolfe – talentlessPhilip Roth – jerkIt was a mercy she only had two hands. To be ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... in which literary events get much attention, but the publication in the New Yorker last August of Janet Malcolm’s study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was an exception. Brilliantly packaged with reprints of the Plath poems which the New Yorker had originally published, the issue was a sell-out on both sides of the Atlantic, and for weeks no dinner ...

Who’s sorry now?

Andrew O’Hagan: Michael Finkel gets lucky, 2 June 2005

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa 
by Michael Finkel.
Chatto, 312 pp., £15.99, May 2005, 0 7011 7688 1
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Burning Down My Master’s House 
by Jayson Blair.
New Millennium, 288 pp., $24.95, March 2004, 9781932407266
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The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Granta, 163 pp., £8.99, January 2004, 1 86207 637 5
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... the Washington Post and the paper’s worst moment, in September 1980, when they ran a report by Janet Cooke that had everyone talking. Cooke wrote a thrilling story about an eight-year-old boy from a low-income neighbourhood of Washington who was addicted to heroin, a story for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. But the New Journalistic ethos was overstrained ...
The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £12.99, January 1991, 0 7475 0759 7
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... read The Journalist and the Murderer. It is not a well-intentioned question. It implies that Ms Malcolm’s book has dealt irreparable damage to me and my kind (journalists who do interviews for a living), and that henceforward we must hang our heads in shame. I don’t see it myself, but let’s begin with the book. It is an account of the ethical issues ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... spin their dirty straw into gold. Writing about the Sylvia Plath industry in The Silent Woman, Janet Malcolm compared the biographer at work to ‘the professional burglar, breaking into a house, rifling through certain drawers that he has good reason to think contain the jewellery and money, and triumphantly bearing his loot away’. The scholarly ...

Fortress Freud

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 18 April 1985

In the Freud Archives 
by Janet Malcolm.
Cape, 165 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02979 7
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... relationship with the rest of the world – or, as they sometimes call it, ‘the goyim’. Janet Malcolm’s two very striking books of reportage, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession and In the Freud Archives, make this clear. Freud’s wife, according to her grandson, ‘divided the world into those who knew of grandfather and those who did ...
Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... nervous systems as their marriage disintegrates; the sides taken by their literary friends (Janet Malcolm phones Bloom on Roth’s behalf, asking her to move out of the couple’s Manhattan apartment into a hotel: Bloom flies to Rome and takes dubious solace in the company of Gore Vidal). Then there are the fascinating financial ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... not to mention life – behind her. But also it is just pragmatic. She has no patience with Janet Malcolm and her pronouncement about every journalist knowing that what ‘he’ does is ‘morally indefensible’. If Malcolm really believes this, why is she writing a book about it? Do even the grandest dames ...

Real Absences

Barbara Johnson, 19 October 1995

Post Scripts: The Writer’s Workshop 
by Vincent Kaufmann, translated by Deborah Treisman.
Harvard, 199 pp., £31.95, June 1994, 0 674 69330 2
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The Oxford Book of Letters 
edited by Frank Kermode and Anita Kermode.
Oxford, 559 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 19 214188 0
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... raised by the prospect of being let into the private lives of others? On the one hand, we have Janet Malcolm famously describing the biographer as a burglar at the subject’s keyhole, shamelessly marketing voyeuristic delights. On the other hand, it is often asserted that nothing is more boring than hearing the narrative of other people’s ...

Through the Psychoanalytoscope

Frank Cioffi, 25 January 1996

Wittgenstein Reads Freud: The Myth of the Unconscious 
by Jacques Bouveresse, translated by Carol Cosman.
Princeton, 143 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 691 03425 7
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... on the grounds that that is what mental conflict feels like. In his monumental Freud Evaluated, Malcolm Macmillan refers to ‘the psychoanalytic tradition of directly translating subjective impressions into economic terms’. Even Richard Wollheim, who rarely rises above an abject appreciativeness in his dealings with Freud, concedes that Freud ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors, 11 March 2010

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... lives, attitudes and relationships in order to understand why they rejected Shakespeare, much as Janet Malcolm, in The Silent Woman (1994), turned the tables on biographers of Sylvia Plath by intruding on their domestic lives. According to Shapiro, mainstream Shakespeare scholars have collectively ignored the authorship controversy because it is their ...

‘I was there, I saw it’

Ian Sansom: Ted Hughes, 19 February 1998

Birthday Letters 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 198 pp., £14.99, January 1998, 0 571 19472 9
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... readers gulp. None of the new poems is sugared with affection; Hughes renders very precisely what Janet Malcolm has called Plath’s ‘not-niceness’. In the opening poem, ‘Fulbright Scholars’, Hughes remembers disinterestedly surveying Plath’s photograph, her grin false ‘for the cameras, the judges, the strangers, the frighteners’. A set of ...


John Lloyd: In Romania, 15 April 1999

... knew what they would think about it before they got there. In The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm talks about betrayal as one of the besetting problems of journalism: betrayal by the journalist of his ‘source’, because the ‘source’ always assumes, or at least hopes, that his testimony will be treated as a unique document when it ...

Husbands and Wives

Terry Castle: Claude & Marcel, Gertrude & Alice, 13 December 2007

Don’t Kiss Me: The Art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore 
edited by Louise Downie.
Tate Gallery, 240 pp., £25, June 2006, 1 59711 025 6
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Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice 
by Janet Malcolm.
Yale, 229 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 300 12551 1
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... a supposedly authoritative production sponsored by a world-class museum they are shockingly poor. Janet Malcolm’s Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice is a short yet absorbing book about how another female couple, the rather more renowned Stein and Toklas, likewise survived the Nazi Occupation – in this case, in eastern France. After a disagreeable bolus of ...

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