Writer and journalist Janet Malcolm.
Janet Malcolm, who died at 86 today from lung cancer, belonged to the great American school that did not distinguish between the resources of fiction and those of journalism, consisting of applying the most sophisticated narrative techniques in the field of the novel into the territory of non-fiction, in a tradition that had among its greatest exponents giants like Truman Capote, Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal.
She shared with them (and with Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe, but from these she was separated by her exquisite delicacy and sensitivity) the ability to dissect the issues at hand with a precision that bordered on brutality, but somehow went further than them, knowing how to inoculate in their writing a way of understanding the journalistic chronicle that reached unmatched levels of intimacy.
Janet Malcolm, provocative teacher of journalists, dies
This is something that only the great lady of the personal essay, Joan Didion, also achieved.
The contradictions stimulated her.
Reading Janet Malcolm, the reader is never sure where he has been dragged.
This caused problems for him among colleagues in the profession.
She was a master of the art of the interview and of the profile, within the purest style that
The New Yorker
the publication where she perfected her literary weapons.
Undoubtedly, they are reports, such as
The journalist and the murderer
Ifigenia in Forest Hills
where his solvency as a chronicler is best perceived, but what explains the height he reached is his pure literary talent. His biographical meditations on great names in literature are masterful. This is the case of
The Silent Woman, a
shrewd dissection of the tragic myth by Sylvia Plath or
a brilliant profile of the Russian playwright and storyteller (one of his influences).
The same way of operating shines brightly in
Two Lives, an
X-ray of the relationship between Gertrude Stein (another of his models) and Alice B. Toklas, Stein's sentimental partner.
Janet Malcolm's greatest influence was Joseph Mitchell, a writer who summarizes in his figure the way of understanding journalism that enthroned
The New Yorker.
Over the years, she agreed to be 'interviewed' on numerous occasions, but setting an impossible condition: her words could not be recorded or published.
I had the honor and the fortune to interview Janet Malcolm for this newspaper in 2004. She liked to prolong the conversations beyond the time limited by what her editors assigned her and she wanted to continue dealing with the topics discussed in the interview later, but as well as No one surpassed her when it came to knowing how to get into the depths of the person whose profile she had to draw, there was no one more elusive than her if it was proposed that she be the object of the interview herself.
Over the years, she agreed to be
on numerous occasions
but with an impossible condition: her words could not be recorded or published. Every time we met, he promised me that the next time he would give me permission to publish the content of our conversation, but the years passed and it never happened. Now it is impossible.