On orientalism

You’re right that “dispassionate observer” doesn’t properly describe the character I assume in my nonfiction writing—especially in the writing of recent years. When I first started doing long fact pieces, as they were called at The New Yorker, I modeled my “I” on the stock, civilized, and humane figure that was the New Yorker “I,” but as I went along, I began to tinker with her and make changes in her personality. Yes, I gave her flaws and vanities and, perhaps most significantly, strong opinions. I had her take sides. I was influenced by this thing that was in the air called deconstruction. The idea I took from it was precisely the idea that there is no such thing as a dispassionate observer, that every narrative is inflected by the narrator’s bias. Edward Said’s Orientalism made a great impression on me. And yes, probably this did add to the character’s authority.

- Janet Malcolm, The Art of Nonfiction No. 4, from The Paris Review