Author: has written 5271 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

7 Responses

  1. LC
    LC September 7, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    I read The Journalist and the Murderer in Journalism school and I remember really not liking Malcolm, the character. I do think it was a very good example of the fallacy of the “dispassionate observer”.

    I will have to read that in full later. I’m not sure I agree with her “writing to show off for the men” thing. Or rather, not fully? Lord knows I know men who write to show off for the women, so I’m not sure it is as gendered as she is suggesting, nor perhaps as generational. Do writers not write to show off now? I would think so. (I need to read the whole thing, obviously, though.)

  2. LC
    LC September 7, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    Jill: I read her as purposely setting that up as different from the way things work now.

    Having read it now, I’d agree, although there is this sense of it being something lost? As she herself points out, it is murky waters. There is definitely a distinction being drawn out there, though, in degree if not in kind.

    She’s a fascinating interview subject, which isn’t really surprising given her own long history with literary journalism. I’m very tempted to go back and reread some of her work I haven’t looked at since I graduated.

  3. sophonisba
    sophonisba September 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm |

    It’s maybe worth noting that the interviewer here is the none-too-bright Katie Roiphe, and some of what’s going on is Janet Malcolm jerking her around just a little bit in a way that goes straight over her head.

  4. Amgine
    Amgine September 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm |

    sophonisba:
    It’s maybe worth noting … Janet Malcolm jerking her around just a little bit in a way that goes straight over her head.

    Oooooh, yah…. “The aggression is coupled with flirtation.” I think so.

    One thing I’m very intrigued by is the premise of the infallible first person voice for journalism. Is this really assumed by readers? Even readers of Faux news? The more dispassionate and ‘voice of god’-like a journalist sounds, the more I question the article. It really sets my teeth on edge, and I start questioning every bald statement of fact which really needs an authority to support it.

  5. snoe
    snoe September 8, 2011 at 1:57 am |

    Delurking cause I love, love Janet Malcolm, and rarely get to talk about her writing.

    Amgine:

    One thing I’m very intrigued by is the premise of the infallible first person voice for journalism. Is this really assumed by readers? Even readers of Faux news? The more dispassionate and ‘voice of god’-like a journalist sounds, the more I question the article. It really sets my teeth on edge, and I start questioning every bald statement of fact which really needs an authority to support it.

    Yeah, the infallible “I” in journalism seems to have largely gone away (for the reasons you cite – maybe also aesthetic ones? The cool factor of gonzo, e.g.?). She -is- talking in that bit about a fairly specific kind of writing, though – Joseph Mitchell, New Yorker, etc – that does/did rely on a kind of authoritativeness. (Grossly overgeneralizing – sorry – I am typing this on my phone, which is saving you the misery of a much longer comment :)

    Anyway, Malcolm’s attacked/subverted other nonfiction genres too – notably biography in The Silent Woman. It’s a pleasure to see her acting out the role of interviewee here – almost a parody of what I’d expect from her. I hold no particular brief for Katie Roiphe, God knows, but it can’t have been an easy interview.

    Can’t recommend Malcolm’s writing enough – The Silent Woman is particularly awesome. (It gets into the historical gender stuff discussed above as well.) Thanks for the post, Jill! And sorry for any typos, y’all. I really should’ve gotten out of bed and used a proper keyboard/screen.

  6. LC
    LC September 8, 2011 at 8:46 am |

    Amgine: One thing I’m very intrigued by is the premise of the infallible first person voice for journalism. Is this really assumed by readers?

    It was for years. It was for journalists as well, in some ways. It still is tried. If you think about it, the very premise of “left-wing media bias” and Fox News is that we are supposed to go back to that.

    Mind you, my recollection is that it was an invention of the AP wire (or another wire service). Since they wanted to sell copy to all sorts of different papers and couldn’t know what bias they had, the wire services sold themselves as flat-neutral reporting of facts, and the cult of “objective journalism” caught on.

    (That’s my vague recollection, anyways.)

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.