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My Mistake Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547794231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547794235
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Menaker has been steeped in language his entire life, as the son of a copy editor, a perceptive reader, an incisive and witty writer, and an editor for the New Yorker and Random House. He now contemplates the origins, happenstance, and consequences of his devotion to literature in a warm, humorous, on-point memoir. Amiably self-deprecating, Menaker is a deft sketch artist, vividly portraying loved ones (especially his older brother, who goaded him to excel and whose early death is the source of depthless sorrow) and colleagues (his portraits of New Yorker staff are hilarious, barbed, and tender). His insider view of publishing is eye-opening and entertaining. What elevates Menaker’s clarion reminiscence is his eloquently affirming appreciation for the humanities: Everything in your life is enriched, everything has a more universal human context. And his illumination of the exacting work of a New Yorker editor can serve as a veritable guide to the practice of getting things right in life, word by word, realization by realization, as we open ourselves to facts and art, truth and compassion. --Donna Seaman

Review

“In this insightful memoir, Menaker leads his readers down the hallowed halls of The New Yorker... But the book isn’t all business. Menaker also delves into the ups and downs of his personal life, from summers at his uncle’s camp, to the death of his mother. Tender, smart and witty, this book is truly unputdownable.”  -- Real Simple

"A ruefully funny insider’s tour of the publishing world.” -- Vogue.com

"[Menaker] contemplates the origins, happenstance, and consequences of his devotion to literature in a warm, humorous, on-point memoir. Amiably self-deprecating, Menaker is a deft sketch artist, vividly portraying loved ones (especially his older brother, who goaded him to excel and whose early death is the source of depthless sorrow) and colleagues (his portraits of New Yorker staff are hilarious, barbed, and tender). His insider view of publishing is eye-opening and entertaining." -- Booklist

"[Menaker] writes here of his hectic childhood with well-preserved romanticism. The result is charming. [He] is at his best when irreverent: chuckling at aptronyms (people aptly named), or deflating New Yorker legends (William Shawn and Tina Brown, most notably). Still, in this book of years, gossip is secondary to the writer’s own musings and memories. Menaker leaves the reader with a sense of the vast triumph that is a life well lived." —Publishers Weekly

"A well-known editor’s funny and thoughtful memoir of wrong turns, both in and out of publishing. . . Menaker doesn’t just recount experiences; he digs away at them with wit and astute reflection, looking for the pattern of a life that defies easy profit-and-loss lessons."
Kirkus, starred review

"Menaker examines a life lived well if not perfectly. He’s bold enough to explore his years at The New Yorker, where he stayed for 26 years despite discouragement from William Shawn, and the perpetual self-doubt that has dogged him, particularly owing to his role in his brother’s inadvertent death. Certainly of interest to memoir fans and literati."
Library Journal

"How can something written so accurately be so witty? Don't you have to cheat a bit to wring the humor out of life? Daniel Menaker has constructed a compelling tale that irises down to a powerful and emotional climax and is delivered in exacting prose woven into affecting poetry."
—Steve Martin

"My Mistake is only sometimes rueful. It is also frequently funny and splendidly precise as it takes a look back at a life led in the world of magazine editing and book publishing, a behind-the-scenes rumination of a time gone by. Intriguing now, it will be necessary later; readers will be thankful for this quirky and delightful piece of history."
—Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys

"Daniel Menaker's distinctive journey through his own memories is impossible to resist—and not just for those of us with an appetite for literary anecdote. My Mistake is also the story of literary New York, with keen, vivid impressions from Menaker's Forties childhood, Cold War coming-of-age, and long career at the epicenter of the publishing industry during the onslaught of the Digital Age."
—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

"I can't remember when I've read a memoir this—let's say 'soulful.' Funny, sad, and wryly self-aware, Menaker shines a bright light on his own background, our literary life, and his own path through it."
—James Gleick, author of The Information

"My Mistake brings to mind the poetic prose of James Agee. Menaker's stories of life as fiction editor at The New Yorker and Random House are a delight, the way he tells them simply perfect. Humorous, thoughtful, heartbreaking and brave. I have not enjoyed a memoir more."
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of Please Excuse My Daughter

"Menaker has spent a life with words as an editor at the New Yorker and Random House. Now he takes us behind the scenes with William Shawn (who didn’t like him), Tina Brown (who gets her husband, Harry Evans, to hire him so she can get rid of him) and a parade of writers." -- Bloomberg

"A charming and revealing insider's look at the world of the New Yorker and big-time book publishing." -- Shelf Awareness

"A wild ride that will provide insider glimpses of the New York publishing world from 1969 onward, with the author serving as one of the scene’s principal participants and sharpest observers...Not easy to pigeonhole, this is an amalgam of autobiography and cultural history at its best." - Bookpage

 "My Mistake is a memoir of editor Daniel Menaker's life and long career, including 26 years at The New Yorker, which he calls a "brilliant crazy house." Set in the world of literary New York, it is undeniably insider-y and gossipy. (The stories about Tina Brown are not to be missed.) But the human experiences he describes — especially the hard stuff, like family, illness and death — will be familiar to anyone." -- NPR.com


More About the Author

I was born in in New York City in 1941, to a mother, Mary Randolph Grace, a Bryn Mawr classics major from a fancy WASP family, and a father whose parents refused to marry because they were radicals and believed that marriage was a form of State oppression. His name was Robert Owen Menaker and his six brothers also bore utopian names--William Morris Menaker, Frederick Engels Menaker, Nicholas Chernechevsky Menaker, and so on. I attended the Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village, Nyack High School, Swarthmore College, and the Johns Hopkins University, where I earned a Master's Degree in English Literature. I taught high-school English for two years and went on to work as a fact checker, copy editor, and editor for The New Yorker Magazine. After twenty-six years at The New Yorker, I became an editor at Random House and eventually was named Editor-in-Chief. I've worked with David Foster Wallace, Salman Rushdie, Nassim Taleb, Curtis Sittenfeld, Michael Chabon, Michael Cunningham, Janet Malcolm, Elmore Leonard, Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth Strout, Colum McCann, Jennifer Egan, Daniel Silva, Billy Collins, George Saunders, and many, many others.

I married author and New York Times editor Katherine Bouton in 1980, and we have two children, a boy (now a young man) named William Michael Grace Menaker, the "Michael Grace" being my late brother's name--he died when he was twenty-nine and I was twenty-six--and a girl (now a young woman), Elizabeth Grace Menaker. Will is book publishing and Elizabeth is a social worker.

I have written six books, two of them New york Times Notable titles and one of them the basis of a movie called "The Treatment," with Ian Holm and Famke Janssen. I've also written humor and articles, reviews, and essays for many, many publications, including, most prominently, The New Yorker. One of my humor pieces, "The Worst" was blessed with a fan letter from Groucho Marx. I've served on the Board of the Poetry Foundation, conducted a six-episode online author-interview program, titlepage.tv, in other venues (PEN Symphony Space, the Brooklyn Academy of Music) have interviewed dozens of writers, am a professor in the MFA program at Stony Brook University, have taught a humor-writing course at Columbia, and have traveled to Nepal and the country of Georgia on cultural missions for the United States State Department.

I can sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" one note behind the melody. My family has a dog named Maxwell, named after my teacher at Tne New Yorker, William Maxwell. I captained Swarthmore's soccer team to a 2-10 record my senior year. I have shaken hands with Muhammad Ali, who gave me an autograph to give to my son.

For more than five years I have fought lung cancer, for the time being successfully, And you had better knock wood for me right now, unless you are in the Tea Party and don't care for the cut of my political jib. My blog, seriously outdated right now and consisting in the last few years of a series of conversations about medical treatment, can be found at danielmenaker.com.

My new book, a memoir called "My Mistake," will be published by Houghton Mifflin in November of 2013.

If you've gotten this far, thank you for your patience, however inexplicable.

Customer Reviews

It is, instead, a story about a real life told with tenderness and humor.
moose_of_many_waters
I recommend this book for people interested in publishing, New York City, The New Yorker, or anyone who enjoys reading memoirs.
Jane
He admires readers and believes good readers have an “intuitive grasp of the meaning and feeling” of what they read.
Schuyler T. Wallace

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By moose_of_many_waters VINE VOICE on October 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My Mistake follows none of the rules of contemporary memoirs. Mr. Menaker isn't self destructive. No horrible things have happened to him. He isn't famous. Menaker doesn't follow the lead of iconic memoirs like The Education of Henry Adams, either, and create grand ideas to organize the world around him.

This is an entirely different kind of memoir, something rare today: an intelligent, well-written, examination of a life well lived. My Mistake is a quiet, carefully constructed book about a literary man in the literary world of 20th (and a bit of 21st) century New York. There is no chest beating. There is a small amount of name dropping, but it actually serves a purpose. My Mistake is mostly about the value of intelligence, persistence, heart, and good listening skills in living life well and happily. If you want to know about how an editor - Mr. Menaker was both the fiction editor at The New Yorker and chief editor at Random House - works and lives in the madhouse that is New York publishing, you'll find much to enjoy here. It's not a gripping narrative because, unlike almost all gripping narratives in the memoir genre, it's probably 100% true. It is, instead, a story about a real life told with tenderness and humor.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By emmejay VINE VOICE on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"[Editor-in-chief William] Shawn always claims that THE NEW YORKER does not and cannot, with integrity, try to attend to what a reader might want to read. We publish what *we* like, and hope that some people might want to read it too. [When a Table of Contents is finally added, the staff gasps:] 'It's none of the readers' business what's in the magazine.' " (!! LOL)

Daniel Menaker's memoir begins in childhood with an intense sibling rivalry and a tragedy, and concludes in his seventies. There are some touching passages, particularly from childhood, but it's the middle that's most of the book and the most interesting -- inside stories from his decades of work at The New Yorker as a fact checker, then copy editor and Fiction Editor, largely under Shawn (who told Menaker to find another place to work and he finally did, 26 years later).

There are also bits about Tina Brown and a mention of Robert Gottlieb, and some about his early career teaching English at a top private school, his own writing, and his late career in book publishing at Random House and Harper Collins. There's a fine passage about the value of a humanities education that's too long to quote here; but if you can "search inside" or google part or all of his conclusion ("If you are lucky enough to be educated well in an ivory tower, it will help to prepare you to descend from that tower and deal with un-ivoried reality"), you'll get to the paragraph.

"I think that some of us have more than one mother and many if not most of us, especially boys, have more than one father.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"My Mistake: A Memoir" (239 pages) is written by Daniel Menaker, best known for his work at The New Yorker, and later Editor-In-Chief at Random House. In this memoir, Menaker, now 72, looks back at his life. After a 2 page Introduction which is more a preview ("My brother died when he was twenty-nine after surgery for an injury I had caused.") than it is an explanation as to why he wrote the book, Menaker then dives straight in, starting with his earliest memories (when he is 2 1/2 years old) and then proceeding in a mostly chronological order.

Couple of comments: first and foremost, I am struck as to the many and vivid details that Menaker remembers from his earliest days. Here another example from when he was 5: "In the 'Fives' at the Little Red School House, the very progressive private school on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, a new boy arrives. Walter Brooks. He's black and can sing 'Cincinnati's Dancing Pig' well. Many years later, it occurs to me that our teachers' asking Walter to sing [that song] smacked a little of minstrelsy." Second, as already alluded in the Introduction, the passing away of his older brother Mike at age 29 is a huge moment in the author's life, one that he comes back to or makes reference to time and again in the book, wrestling with feelings of guilt and/or remorse and at times relief too (in a weird/surprising kind of way). The chapter of Mike's actual passing away is difficult to read and will tug at your heart.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan L McCaffrey on December 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Curious about its title, I began reading this account of the author's editorial career - and so much more - and literally could not stop reading. Menaker's exquisitely phrased accounts of the relationships, hierarchy, and egos of the magazine and publishing world made me feel as I were witnessing the New Yorker, Random House, and others first hand during their heyday of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Menaker invites the reader into his personal and professional life with a wit and honesty rarely encountered today.
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