Review: Menaker's 'My Mistake' is enjoyable book

KIM CURTIS Associated Press Published:

"My Mistake: a Memoir" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by Daniel Menaker

Don't bother using it to convince others of the legitimacy of your passion or to persuade those whose money you spend buying book after book that your enterprise is valid.

Instead, just read "My Mistake." And enjoy it.

Daniel Menaker worked for 26 years as an editor at The New Yorker, then for another 15 years in book publishing. When he was 66, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He's now in remission and at 72, he published this memoir. But he only shares as much of his life as is necessary to tell this story, a book story.

First, it's notable for its organization. Menaker separates chapters by age. For some years, like from 8 to 12, the sections are short. But others, especially his professional years, consume pages.

Without naming names -- at least not too many -- Menaker gives readers a glimpse into the less-than-rarefied world of fiction -- publishing, marketing, buying and selling. And it's fascinating.

The numbers he shares about how many books get read compared with how many are purchased are simply depressing.

But Menaker also can be funny and lighthearted.

For instance, he retells the story of "Seabiscuit" when it first came up for discussion. Someone muttered: "Talk about beating a dead horse!" Or when they discussed another best-seller, "Reading Lolita in Tehran." ''I said sarcastically, at least to myself if not out loud, 'Reading What in Where?'"

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Online:

http://danielmenaker.com/