Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: 'My Mistake' by Daniel Menaker

Seventy-two year-old Daniel Menaker's "My Mistake" is a series of vignettes in which the author recounts, with mixed feelings, his experiences from childhood until the present. Regret and guilt are partially offset by satisfaction and gratitude for the good things that have come his way. Menaker, whose forebears on his father's side were Orthodox Jewish scholars, was raised by atheists who embraced socialism and empathized with the plight of working men and women.

What distinguishes Menaker's account are his intriguing anecdotes, concise but striking character studies, and cogent analysis of the changes that have transformed the publishing industry. Menaker regales us with stories about his offbeat family; relives the shock and grief that brought him low after a tragic accident culminated in tragedy; and describes his years as a fact checker and editor at of the New Yorker. In addition, Menaker has endured physical and psychological hardships that he believes have made him patient, stronger, and more appreciative of his many blessings--a loving wife, two wonderful children, and a fulfilling profession.

Although Dan Menaker may not be a household name, he has written six books and edited the works of such luminaries as Elizabeth Strout, Michael Cunningham, Alice Munro, and Michael Chabon. Liberally laced with sentence fragments and phrases, "My Mistake" is informal, rambling at times, clever, candid, and humorous. Menaker often refers to a person or incident, drops it, then at a later point reveals its significance. He offers gossipy tidbits that readers will relish. Menaker is a student of the art of written expression and also of human nature. In addition, he is his own harshest critic, and has worked hard to forgive himself for what he considers his many missteps. He implies that thinking about the past has helped him attain a deeper understanding of himself and others and has given him a greater tolerance for life's imperfections.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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