[Janice Williamson writes….] Like many others, I’ve long been a fan of American writer Janet Malcolm’s writing: her excellent nonfiction essays were often published in The New Yorker or The New York Review of Books before shapeshifting into book form. Her elegant style, fierceness of spirit and her interest in psychoanalysis attracted me as a reader and a writer. Malcolm has much to teach us about the genre.
In The New York Review of Books, Malcolm writes about the ethics of quotation in nonfiction writing:
the invention of the tape recorder surprisingly revealed—our actual utterances are usually couched in a language that urgently requires translation into English when it is transferred from oral to written speech. As we listen to each other speak, we make the translation automatically and thus think we are hearing English, but, as tape transcripts demonstrate, we are not. As we speak, we seem to be making constant stabs at saying what we mean—thus the redundancy, hesitancy, fragmentation that surround the occasional complete grammatical sentence we form and the occasional mot we get off. To publish a person’s tape-recorded speech verbatim is a little like publishing a writer’s rough drafts.
You can find more links here, and archives of her essays at the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. Her books are wonderful. Try The Silent Woman about Sylvia Plath. Or read her fascinating explorations in the Freud Archives….
Katie Roiphe writes this introduction to her Paris Review interview with Janet Malcolm: Continue reading “Janet Malcolm: The Paris Review interview on The Art of Nonfiction No. 4”