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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, July 29, 2013

LCA was reading the NYTimes Weddings section yesterday and commented on one in which, "The bride wrote biographies for all 150 guests and had them bound into books that were given to them." We chatted about this-- too much work? What do you do for the guests that you don't know very well?-- stuff like that, and eventually got around to the conclusion that the little bios would all be about the guest's relationship to the bride. Thought of this way the act becomes one of tremendous narcissism, but of course it was: the bride in question was Joyce Maynard.

Ms Maynard is a kind of a monster, I think, and one who, for some reason, has been abetted throughout her career by the New York Times. All writers are users, to a greater or lesser extent, but writers should take care to have their writing justify the exploitation. This has never been Joyce Maynard's practice, except, arguably, in the article that first brought her to prominence: An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back at Life. It is possible that this piece appears less remarkable than it did in 1972, when it was merely precocious: social media has changed things, and it is likely that if you asked her  Joyce Maynard would say that she was in the vanguard.  

| Comments:
The phenomenon of "people whose life work does not bear out early promise" receives insufficient attention in American culture, perhaps only because the subject is such a bummer. I am put in mind of that by a recent piece on the New Yorker's blog about the 20th anniversary of Liz Phair's "Exile In Guyville" album -- that blog post addressed in part why Phair's later work never matched the standard of that very fine album. In the case of Joyce Maynard, she seems to have been under a cloud her entire life, and her efforts to get out from under that cloud have become increasingly bizarre over the years.

 

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