December 05, 2010

All I have is intense curiosity.

Gay Talese, The Art of Nonfiction No. 2, interviewed by Katie Roiphe
the Paris Review, Summer 2009

"But the column gave me an excuse to talk to others. It was not unlike my mother talking with the wealthy women in her dress shop. Doing journalism made me feel that, even if I wasn't part of their group, I had a right to be there."

"All I have is intense curiosity. I have a great deal of interest in other people and, just as importantly, I have the patience to be around them."

"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. I was interested in fiction. I wanted to write like Fitzgerald. I collected his work--his short stories and journals. "Winter Dreams" is my favorite story of all time. 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 never turned in anything more than two minutes before deadline. It was never easy, I felt I had only one chance. I was working for the paper of record, and I believed that what I was doing was going to be part of a permanent history."

"I take it very seriously. This is a craft. This is an art form. I'm writing stories, just like fiction writers, only I use real names."

"I was in touch with Floyd because when I finish a story, I don't finish a story. I keep in touch with the people I write about. I did that even as a young sports writer just starting out, twenty-five years old. I keep in touch because I always think that there might be more. The stories go on."

"I turned in the piece at roughly a hundred pages. They didn't change a word."
-in reference to "Frank Sinatra has a Cold"

"I try to tell the reader where my characters come from, and how they got to the point where I've found them. It never is just present tense. It's always also about past tense."

"The only thing I could think of was to start a college fund, which I set up for my own daughters at the same time. Honor Thy Father paid for college for all four of the Bonanno children and my daughters. I'm glad I did it because I have the evidence now that it was the right decision. The four Bonanno children are straight, and one of them is even an important doctor. None of them have had to do what their father chose to do."

"A case could be made that this is my main failing as a person. I am never there. Fully."

So inspiring. Everything he says is why I want to be a journalist.

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