Nobody’s Looking at You brings together previously uncompiled pieces of narrative non-fiction, mainly from the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, by a master of the form.
The title of this wonderfully eclectic collection comes from its profile of the fashion designer Eileen Fisher, from one of her mother’s favourite reproofs. But in every piece in this volume, Malcolm looks closely and with impunity at a broad range of subjects, from the brilliant TV commentator Rachel Maddow to the stiletto-heel-wearing pianist Yuja Wang, from the ‘big-league game’ of Supreme Court confirmation hearings to the battleground of Tolstoy translation.
Janet Malcolm was the prize-winning author of many books, including Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, and Burdock, a volume of her photography. Malcolm wrote frequently for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. She died in 2021.
‘With no weak selections and several strikingly prescient ones, this collection shows its author as a master of narrative nonfiction.’ (starred review) Publishers Weekly
‘Janet Malcolm…remains a ruthless, dazzling journalist.’ Guardian
‘She is among the most intellectually provocative of authors, able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight.’ Boston Globe
‘Malcolm as a whole sets a gold standard of performance for any journalist…It’s wise to expect the unexpected.’ Australian
‘Few writers pay attention with the precision, acuity and patience [Malcolm] has exhibited during her career of telling stories...Her work was hybrid before hybrid was a thing: It balances her skills as a reporter (avid, nosy attention) with those of a scholar (writing about anything, it’s clear she’s read everything), a literary critic (tuned to how language, written or spoken, foregrounds its maker’s gifts and faults) and, above all, a storyteller. She is uncommonly concerned with finding a form that delivers the force of the story she is telling.' New York Times
Malcolm (Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers) assembles an eclectic group of essays, mainly culled from the New Yorker and New York Review of Books, most of them from the past decade, into this outstanding collection. Varied and witty, the book includes profiles of such people as fashion designer Eileen Fisher, with her "aesthetic of elegant plainness" and concert pianist Yuja Wang, "whose tiny dresses and spiky heels" draw attention to the contrast between her petite frame and the "forcefulness she achieves at her instrument." Several essays are literary critiques, touching on, among other points, New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell's ability to "bend actuality to artistic will" and how Tolstoy follows the "deep structures" of dream logic in Anna Karenina. Malcolm also explores the differing ways millennials and baby boomers view sexual harassment, email etiquette, and the high-stakes drama of John Roberts's Supreme Court nomination hearings, where little was learned about his judicial philosophy, but revelations about character emerged. With no weak selections and several strikingly prescient ones, this collection shows its author as a master of narrative nonfiction. \n