Friday, January 17, 2014

"My Mistake: A Memoir," by Daniel Menaker

It's hard not to like Daniel Menaker’s new book, “My Mistake: A Memoir” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Most of it is about his life in literature, first for many years at The New Yorker, then at various publishers, and all the while writing his own articles and books. He gives us an inside view of some of the famous names associated with The New Yorker (William Shawn! William Maxwell! Tina Brown! Veronica Geng! Janet Flanner!) and in the literary world, always enjoyable to read. No matter how much I have already read about The New Yorker, and about famous publishing companies, including behind-the-scenes tell-alls, I can’t get enough of it! Menaker also writes candidly, or seemingly candidly, about his own life, and as suggested in his title, about his own failures as well as successes. We get a strong sense of his personality and character. Now seventy and a recent cancer survivor, he looks back on his life so far and tries to summarize and to find themes. He finds he is able both to acknowledge and to forgive himself for some of his “mistakes” and has learned to cherish his life and all he has experienced. If this last part sounds sentimental or obvious, that is not the way it comes across. I appreciate his efforts to present his life honestly, while at the same time acknowledging that there is no such thing as remembering everything in one’s life accurately.

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