I recently read an interview of writer Gay Talese in the Paris Review (via kottke.org). I had heard of Talese but I’d never read any of his work. After reading the interview, I want to.
Even if you have no interest in writing, read the interview because it’s absorbing,
In The Art of Nonfiction (No. 2), Talese is interviewed by Katie Roiphe. Excerpt:
My first job was on the sports desk, but I didn’t want to write about sporting events. I wanted to write about people. I wrote about a losing boxer, a horse trainer, and the guy in the boxing ring who rang the bell between rounds…
The good nonfiction writers were writing about famous people, or topical people, or public people. No one was writing about unknown people. I knew I did not want to be on the front page. On the front page you’re stuck with the news. The news dominates you. I wanted to dominate the story. I wanted to pick subjects that were not the ordinary assignment editor’s idea of a story.
… Once, at an NYU baseball game, I overheard a conversation between a young couple who were having a lovers’ quarrel. I wrote the dialogue and I told the story of the game through what they were watching and what they were saying. At the St. Patrick’s Day parade, I wrote about the last person in the procession, a little guy who was carrying a tuba, and behind him came the sanitation trucks. I followed the parade from the vantage point of this tuba player.
Here’s the link again: The Art of Nonfiction