New Yorker writer recounts her second chance in a libel lawsuit

In 1984 The New Yorker published a story written by Janet Malcolm. The story, says Malcolm in the 24 Sep 2020 issue of The New York Review of Books, was "about a disturbance in an obscure corner of the psychoanalytic world whose chief subject, a man named Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, hadn't liked his portrayal and claimed that I had libeled him by inventing the quotations on which it was largely based. So he sued me and the magazine and the Knopf publishing company, which had brought out the article as a book called In the Freud Archives."

Malcolm's 2020 NYRB essay, titled "A Second Chance," is about how, during the trial, she'd adopted a "style of self-preservation" common among New Yorker writers: "reticent, self-deprecating, and, maybe, here and there, funny, but to always keep a low profile." This proved to be a bad idea, and if not for a hung jury, The New Yorker would have been hit with substantial damages. To prepare for the retrial, Malcolm hired a public speaking expert who told her how to speak, behave, and dress in order to make the jury fall in love with her.