Q: Having lived well, long, and successfully enough to confidently call your memoir My Mistake, what percentage of life’s accidents, do you think, are happy ones?
A: Depends on the life. Conception itself is such a random matter that it ought to teach us how large a role happenstance plays in all our lives. If it had been a different night for our parents, Matthew McGillicuddy Menaker might be responding to Terwilliger Mackin*, and about who knows what? I know that it is largely accidental and extremely rare, globally, to be born into comfortable and loving circumstances, almost no matter how askew those circumstances are.
But if I must answer the question directly, something I am always loath to do, evidently, I would say about 50%. I don’t know what makes me say that–maybe some conviction that the cosmos tend, without any interest in the matter, to even things out. Sadly, for a lot of people, it’s only 1%–like finding half a candy bar on a sidewalk somewhere. While for others, also sadly but not nearly THAT sadly, it’s probably up there in the 90s.
*the question was posed by Joe Mackin
–Daniel Menaker, whose new book is called My Mistake, began his career as a fact checker at The New Yorker, where he became an editor and worked for twenty-six years. He later became Executive Editor in Chief at Random House. Menaker is the author of six books; he has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, and many others. A far, far better biography of the man can be found here, in his own words.