A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Monday, February 28, 2005
posted by Jen at 2/28/2005 10:40:00 PM

We joined some friends on a field trip to New York this weekend to look at the Gates, visit the Central Park Zoo, and hit the Museum of Natural History.

Lu was a trooper throughout, and really liked the butterflies and the whale. Afterwards, when we were bundled up and heading back to the hotel, she peered up at us and said, “Birthday cake?”

Adam and I looked at each other. “What was that?” I asked.

“Birthday cake!” said Lu.

We finally figured it out – the last few times she’s been to museums, it’s been for birthday parties, where she is offered pizza, and a juice box, and birthday cake.

We stopped at a drugstore and found some soft cookies. “Here, Lucy!” Adam said, handing her one. “Birthday cake!”

She looked a little dubious, but ate it anyhow. And so begins our descent down the slippery slope of lying to our kid for her own good.

(My favorite part of the vacation was actually when the grownups went out to dinner, leaving Lucy and baby Henry, who's fourteen months old, sleeping in the same room as baby Shoshanna, who's six months. I imagined Lucy and Henry sneaking out of their cribs to prank Shoshanna by putting her hand in a glass of warm water so she'd pee....then realizing that there's kind of no point if the person you're pranking is wearing a diaper).

In literary news, I’m so happy to see that the New York Times has given Curtis Sittenfeld a rest and turned its attention to another unknown, underprivileged writer toiling in obscurity: Jonathan Safran Foer!

I didn’t hate the profile (and, by extension, its subject) as much as people elsewhere in the blogosphere, although it seems that anyone who was genuinely “loath to be observed or noticed” probably wouldn’t while away his hours composing a hundred and fifty pieces of emails to a reporter – or even agree to the piece in the first place.

I was intrigued by Safran Foer’s agent’s comment about how ''Jonathan has had to live with so much jealousy, it's had me ripping my hair out,'' she says.

I'll admit to a touch of Foer envy, but it isn’t fueled by the size of his advances ($500,000 for the first book, $1 million for the second one), or the size of his sales (100,000 copies of EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED in hardcover, 150,000 more in paperback – mightily impressive, the author assures us, for a literary novel), but by the sheer amount of press this guy gets – particularly in the Times.

There’s such a small handful of newspapers that even have book reviews any more, fewer and fewer magazines that publish fiction, let alone review it. The Times’ real estate is incredibly valuable. So what do the editors do with it? Designate a few darlings each season, and just keep writing about them, over and over and over again.

Review their books; write profiles of them, invite them to contribute back-page essays or op-ed pieces or six paragraphs on the books that influenced them most. Treat them like they’ve written the only books to appear in any given season (or certainly, by implication, the only ones that matter).

And when a quote-unquote commercial writer finally gets noticed, chances are, she’ll be treated to an acid-etched takedown that drips with scorn, not only for her, but for the dolts dumb enough to read her stuff.

Witness Janet Maslin’s treatment of Jodi Picoult’s latest, VANISHING ACTS: “This time kidnapping and alcoholism are big issues, along with the question of whether life offers any second chances. "Vanishing Acts" is not written for anybody who thinks the answer is no.”

In other words, like this book and you’re a sap.

On a non-literary note: didn't Adam Duritz look exactly like Sideshow Bob at the Oscars last night?
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