cover image Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory

Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory

Janet Malcolm. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-60513-1

In this evocative posthumous memoir, journalist Malcolm (Nobody’s Looking at You: Essays), who died last year, deconstructs her identity through an analysis of family photos. A photo taken in 1939 shows five-year-old Malcolm and her parents on a train leaving Prague just before the start of WWII, which triggers hazy recollections of her first year in America: “The image of a Beatrix Potter book... remains as a single unclarifying memento of the house in Brooklyn.” A photo of Malcolm’s teacher at the after-school Czech program she attended in Manhattan evokes sympathy: “We were too young to be kind in return to someone so weak.” The author also addresses her career, including a lawsuit brought on by the subject of a 1984 New Yorker article who sued Malcolm and the magazine for libel. The case, which Malcolm won in 1994, caused Malcolm to rethink how other people perceived her: “It was at trial that the influence of the New Yorker proved to be most dire.” Witty (“I was infected early on with the virus of romance”) and reflective (“The glitter of memory may be no less deceptive”), this is a monument to a master of her craft. (Jan.)