Two articles of special interest to nonfiction writers have recently come out, one in The Paris Review, the other in Vanity Fair. I think you'll find both of them absorbing.
The first is an in-depth interview with Gay Talese, by Katie Roiphe, in the Summer 2009 issue of the esteemed literary journal. Talese, of course, was one of the early masters of using fictional techniques in nonfiction writing—an approach that, in his case, was supported by a seamless prose style and truly prodigious reporting. The issue reproduces in full some of the actual storyboards and research notes he used in writing his classic Esquire article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" and his book Thy Neighbor's Wife.
The Writer also did a detailed interview with Talese a few years ago and you can read both parts at our Web site: "Gay Talese on the art of creative nonfiction" and "Gay Talese, Part 2: A writer & a gentleman." (Any registered user can access these articles; registration is free.)
The other article is the cover story in the October Vanity Fair, by Sam Kashner, titled "Jackie—her loneliest battle: the J.F.K. book she tried to censor—and its tragic legacy." This is the tale of historian William Manchester's exhausting effort at writing The Death of a President, the one book about the Kennedy assassination that was commissioned by the Kennedys themselves. The book, the legal controversy that developed around it, and a 100-hours-a-week writing schedule nearly destroyed Manchester, Kashner writes. In all, Manchester interviewed 1,000 people.
Two phrases come to mind in describing Manchester's agony: editing by committee (potentially one of a writer's worst nightmares), and death by a million cuts.
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