Authors and Editors in Conversation Ileene Smith: The title essay of your recently published volume—Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers—is an ingenious portrait of the artist David Salle that is taught in journalism schools. At what point did you decide to construct the piece as a series of “false starts”? Janet Malcolm: In most of what I write, it takes me a long time to find the opening that will propel the piece forward. False starts are openings that don’t go anywhere. While struggling to find the right start for my piece about David Salle, it occurred to me that the record of the struggle might form a kind of parallel to Salle’s paintings, which are a meld of images that don’t seem to go together but in some mysterious way do. So I began writing false false starts and added them to the rather large number of true ones I had already written.