Gay Talese’s long-awaited memoir, A Writer’s Life, comes out this week. A pioneer of the New Journalism, Talese has his roots “deep in the old-fashioned, no-nonsense ground of the newsroom, where he spent the early part of his career,” according to a NY Times preview.
The author of The Kingdom and the Power and Honor thy Father is as brilliant and obsessive about details as the most meticulous reporter. So he’s, um, not very prolific. This book took a staggering 14 years to write.
“Talese, who has compared writing both to passing a kidney stone and to ‘driving a truck at night without headlights, losing your way along the road and spending a decade in a ditch’ is a painfully slow worker — a tinkerer and reviser, an obsessive typer and re-typer.”
His book, he admits, is in part a record of failure, of leads that don’t quite pan out. That’s something most writers can relate to. Personally, I think writing — both fiction and nonfiction –is a lot like major league hitting. The best are .300 hitters, which means they whiff a lot more often than they score. Sometimes the best you can do is hit a little squib out to right field, and you get thrown out at first.
But Talese won’t settle for that. He’ll wait and wait — for 14 years if necessary — until he gets his pitch. Then he swings for the fences. The result is a string of best sellers that frequently tiptoe up to literature.
“There really isn’t a story,” Talese said about his newest book. “The story of pursuing the story is the story.” Then he adds:
“In a way I’ve been writing the same book all my life. They’re collections of short stories that use real names and have a real narrator and that don’t make anything up.”
He doesn’t make anything up? What a concept. Will somebody please send a copy to James Frey?
From New York Times