Daniel Menaker

A missed opportunity

Here at NHR, we try to lean more heavily on good books, but every once in a while a book is such a missed opportunity that it's instructive to point out how. Hence of Daniel Menaker's A Good Talk, posted this morning to the New Republic's web site. Menaker is a major publishing macher (is there any other kind?), having worked at the New Yorker, Random House, and HarperCollins. And his editor, Jonathan Karp, is quite savvy. So one wonders how the stone and the flint failed to ignite. Or something like that. Menaker had a hand in a recent slight disappointment, Judith Shulevitz's book about the Sabbath, which I reviewed . I don't know if he was the final editor; he acquired it and then left Random House some time later.

Both books — and Shulevitz's is by far the better book — seemed to need tougher editing. Having just gone through some tough editing for forthcoming book, I know the process isn't always fun. But it's usually necessary, and it's the writer who loses out when the editor gives him or her too much of a pass. (Heck, if I were editing Shulevitz, I would probably be too ginger: she is very smart, and she knows her stuff.)