Still Pictures

On Photography and Memory

Janet Malcolm author


Publisher:Granta Books

Published:1st Feb '24


Available for immediate dispatch.

Still Pictures cover

America's most innovative biographer turns her unblinking gaze upon her own life to create this unique memoir in snapshots

For decades, Janet Malcolm's books and dispatches for the New Yorker have poked and prodded at biographical convention, gesturing towards the artifice that underpins both public and private selves. Here, Malcolm turns her gimlet eye on her own life, examining twelve family photographs to construct a memoir from camera-caught moments, each of which pose questions of their own. She begins with the picture of a morose young girl on a train, leaving Prague at the age of five in 1939. From there we follow her to the Czech enclave of Yorkville in Manhattan, where her father, a psychiatrist and neurologist, and her mother, an attorney from a bourgeois family, traded their bohemian, Dada-inflected lives for the ambitions of middle-class America. From her early, fitful loves to evenings at the old Metropolitan Opera House to her fascination with what it might mean to be a "bad girl," Malcolm assembles a composite portrait of a New York childhood, one that never escaped the tug of Europe and the mysteries of fate and family. Later, Malcolm delves into her marriage to Gardner Botsford, the world of William Shawn's New Yorker, and the libel trial that led her to become a character in her own drama. Displaying the sharp wit and astute commentary that are Malcolmian trademarks, this brief volume develops into a memoir like no other.

Still Pictures is [an] eclectic but carefully crafted work of montage... What emerges is fascinating... it's a bittersweet reminder of Malcolm's extraordinary talents * Telegraph *
Playful, subversive and engrossing... Malcolm belongs to a subtler class of superhero, a ninja perhaps, whose idiosyncratic oeuvre will be knocking delighted readers off their feet for a long time to come * Sunday Times *
She writes fascinatingly... Malcolm's charm in Still Pictures comprises, for me... an absolute refusal to pose - and it's this that makes the book worth reading * Observer *
Like the bulk of her life's work, at its heart is an inquiry into the elusiveness of truth. Although it may be her in the viewfinder, the real subject is the unreliability of the camera * Financial Times *
Funny and true... I have now realised why I recommend her to young writers... because that's what I want to read -- David Aaronovitch * The Times *
As a memoirist, Malcolm comes clean about her gaps in memory and her lapses in judgment... The book's most charming moments are when the incisive, unsparing adult can be found in the child * Economist *
Janet Malcolm, who died in 2021, was one of her generation's great practitioners - one might say agitators - of journalism and biography... Far from a nostalgiafest, it is like a family album annotated to an unusually high intellectual standard * Spectator *
[A] witty memoir of her youth... the book's episodic narrative is addictive... this memoir will make you think about your own family's internal myths * Irish Times *
Malcolm found a playful and unpretentious way to write about her own life ... shot through with her unerring sense of the absurd * TLS *
This slim volume is as satisfying as many a fuller Life * New Statesman *
It's a touching memoir which reminds us of the importance of family photography and the role it can play in our loves, memories and recollections throughout our life. * Amateur Photographer Magazine *

ISBN: 9781783788378

Dimensions: 200mm x 130mm x 10mm

Weight: 130g

176 pages