This week marks the release of My Mistake, a memoir by Menaker, a former editor and writer for the New Yorker as well as editor in chief of Random House. The book details Menaker's memories of his early years in Greenwich Village and Nyack, N.Y., and his time working with legendary editor William Maxwell as well as his battle with lung cancer. Menaker has written two collections of short stories and a novel and has received two O. Henry Awards for short fiction. When we caught up with the author by phone, we asked him about his current take on the book industry. Menaker, 72, expressed optimism. "People will always need stories and the people who write the stories will always need editors and the writers will also always need publicists to get them out to the public.''
What's on your nightstand?
There are several. There's Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. It's great. I think she's a genius.
How does she do it?
She's a master at narrative surprise. Her plots are important but almost secondary to human insight and emotional intensity. In this book, she's written an experimental book with regard to randomness, things that happen to us that if we had gone back to a moment in time and done one other small thing, it never would have happened the way it has. It's about the happenstance in our lives and how things often hinge on tiny decisions.
What else is on your nightstand?
I've also just read Robert Reeves' The Eulogist. It's superb. I also am reading something from a former teacher of mine, Sam Hynes. This book is called Flights of Passage. It's a memoir about being a kid in the Midwest, then a teen, then a pilot. He is the coolest guy I've ever known. Actually, he reminds me of William Maxwell. He's a great writer and Midwesterner. He's got that astringent sense of humor and realism.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer