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How did Janet Malcolm die? Fans mourn loss of author at 86: 'She gave us so much'

Janet Malcolm's daughter, Anne confirmed that the writer died of lung cancer
UPDATED JUN 18, 2021

American journalist, Janet Malcolm who authored books like 'The Journalist and the Murderer', 'In the Freud Archives' and 'The Silent Woman', passed away on June 17. She was 86 years old. Janet's daughter, Anne confirmed that she died of lung cancer.

Janet was a staff writer for The New Yorker. She began writing for the magazine in 1963 when her poem 'Thoughts on Living in a Shaker House' was published. Malcolm wrote a column on interiors and design for The New Yorker for nearly ten years. Throughout her career, Malcolm was focused on what she called the 'moral problem' of journalism and 'the invented I of journalism'. One of her most notable works, 'The Journalist and the Murderer' opens with, 'Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.' Six months into 2021 and we have already witnessed the demise of many great names like 'Dawson's Creek' writer, Heidi Ferrer, founding editor of People magazine, Dick Stolley who published the key footage of JFK assassination and many more.


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Janet Malcolm's early life

Born as Jana Wienerová in Czechoslovakia in 1934, Malcolm and her family migrated to the US in 1939 and settled in Manhattan. She told the Guardian in 2011, "I wanted to assimilate. I wanted to be American. And didn’t want to be foreign. That was the wish." Malcolm started writing for student publications while studying at the University of Michigan, later branching out into book reviews and columns about design, children’s books and shopping.

Later she moved to New York with her husband, Donald Malcolm, and had her first piece published in the New Yorker in 1963.  Malcolm has published eight books. She had also been a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books since 1981, contributing reviews and journalistic and critical pieces. Malcolm's husband died in 1975 and three years later, she married her editor at the New Yorker, Gardner Botsford. She began to develop her trademark writing voice the same year while attempting to quit smoking. The journalist believed that she couldn’t write without cigarettes, so she distracted herself by working on a long piece on family therapy, titled 'The One-Way Mirror'. By the time she had finished, she could write without smoking and found her voice as well.

Malcolm’s notable works include 'Diana and Nikon' (1980), which was a collection of essays on photography. Her book, 'Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1981) is an expanded version of her Profile of the psychoanalyst Aaron Green, and 'In the Freud Archives' (1984) is based on her two-part article on Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. Malcolm's most famous work, 'The Journalist and the Murderer” (1990), was about a lawsuit brought by a convicted murderer against the author of a book on his crime. It was first published in 1989 as a two-part article in the magazine. Malcolm published 'Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers' in 2013, and 'Nobody’s Looking at You: Essays,' her last book, in 2019.

'RIP Janet Malcolm'

Twitter was filled with condolence messages for the writer. One user wrote, "Oh no! Journalism has experienced a huge loss. Her unforgiving eye and laser-sharp prose were an inspiration. RIP Janet Malcolm." Another fan commented, "Some day, the dictionary will make Janet Malcolm a synonym for “incomparable.” One fan tweeted, "I spent a summer reading one Janet Malcolm book after another and became a different writer—and person—in the process. Very grateful for her work." One tweet read, "Janet Malcolm taught me that a female journalist's writing style did not have to be the slightest bit warm. Her book on Chekhov is underrated. RIP." Susan Orlean paid tribute to her saying:" The great New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm has died. She gave us so much. #RIP."