On Janet Malcolm

On Janet Malcolm
(AP Photo/George Nikitin, File)

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, when I found myself writing a book for the first time, I made a routine out of constantly reading and re-reading Janet Malcolm’s work. A friend had suggested to me that in order to sustain myself through the production of some hundred and twenty thousand words, it would be helpful to find a lodestar or kindred spirit to accompany me through the project. This lodestar would be another writer, and it wouldn’t matter whether they were dead or alive. The goal would not be imitation but simply to choose someone whose rhythms, vocabulary, and intellectual preoccupations could make a place for themselves in the middle background of my own mind as I wrote—five hundred words each weekday (no excuses), one chapter a month.

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