Monday, April 24, 2006

Gay Talese: Writing is Hard

There was a great little profile of Gay Talese in the NYTimes yesterday -- it nails his personality better than any profile of him I've seen. Talese is considered one of the founders of creative nonfiction (or literary journalism or narrative nonfiction or whatever you want to call it), right up there with Joseph Mitchell, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, and others.

It's always good to be reminded that greats like Talese are just as tortured by writing as everybody else: It usually takes him 10 - 12 years to publish a book (which makes me right on track at year 9):
"Mr. 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."
All I can say is: Me too. But Talese goes much further than me in that department: "He keeps track of his progress, or lack of it, with memos and exhortations to himself that he posts on white foam panels on the wall." Things like: ""GT, what other stories - and when are you going to get back into print!?????????" Or "Where am I going???" A long time ago, I blogged about his bizarre revision practices, which sometimes involve scraps of paper and binoculars.

Talese struggles with false starts, killed magazine stories, delusions about deadline ... things any writer can relate to. About writing books, the profile quotes him saying, "The funny thing is that I never think they're going to be difficult. The Times book I thought I could do in about six months and it took me years. And maybe I should have, but I never thought this one would be so hard." Amen.

[The New York Observer had an interesting profile of him too, as does the LA Times]

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Matt Hutson said...

Reminds me of the old writers' saw, "I hate writing, but I love having written."

3:59 PM  

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