Hello, and welcome to Media Monday. Last Monday was Columbus Day, which trumped Media Monday, but it's good to be back. We're in the thick of the serious-literature-and-awards period of the year, what with big celebrated authors being published every week, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature and, among others, the announcements of the Man Booker and National Book Award shortlists.
The Sunday Book Review opens with coverage of two books about the same famous media family. The family in question is the Medill family, and they are a mostly unsavory lot. For a (bitter) taste, here's what Joseph Epstein writes about two of the more business savvy Medills: "Socially ambitious, hard on their husbands, cold to their children, rivalrous between themselves, Kate and Nellie Medill took the smile out of Christmas and every other holiday." Nice. Who were these women and where can I learn more about them? Turns out they were once-famous newspaper founders and media titans. They were also mothers. If you're wondering which of these jobs they excelled at, you're in luck -- two books have come out in the past thirty days that outline the triumphs and failures of the Medill family, perhaps the greatest newspaper family ever to have lived in this country. Last month, it was Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson, and this month it's Magnificent Medills: America's Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor. They seem like a royal family that could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two.
Jeffrey Eugenides stopped by Amazon today for a reading. As I looked into the crowd, I could see that his audience was genuinely smitten. Another person who seems smitten by Eugenides, even if he doesn't fully want to admit it, is William Deresiewicz, who reviewed The Marriage Plot for the Times. He writes that the book "possesses the texture and pain of lived experience. Eugenides has always been best on young love." And further along in the review, Deresiewicz states, "the novel is also great on the patter and pretentiousness of college intellectuals ('The bookshelves held the usual Kafka, the obligatory Borges, the point-scoring Musil'); on the sweet banter of courtship; on the kind of doormat nice-boy role that Mitchell submits to playing in Madeleine’s life; and especially on what happens after you graduate, when the whole scaffolding of classes and the college social scene you’ve been training your personality around is suddenly taken away, and you have to grope for a new way to be in the world." The Marriage Plot was an October Best Book of the Month.