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A Writer's Lifeby Gay Talese
"[A] work defined by Talese's elegant, erudite writing and marked by his lifelong (and often wayward) pursuit of disparate story threads....Through much of A Writer's Life, Talese meanders along. He offers us an insider's look at the life of a nonpareil nonfiction writer: days, weeks, months, and years of waiting, canvassing, traveling, scribbling, working and reworking, writing and rewriting. This makes for much less a memoir of Talese's life than a memoir of his writing life, a fine but important distinction." Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
Synopses & Reviews
The inner workings of a writer's life, the interplay between experience and writing, are brilliantly recounted by a master of the art. Gay Talese now focuses on his own life —the zeal for the truth, the narrative edge, the sometimes startling precision, that won accolades for his journalism and best-sellerdom and acclaim for his revelatory books about The New York Times (The Kingdom and the Power), the Mafia (Honor Thy Father), the sex industry (Thy Neighbor's Wife), and, focusing on his own family, the American immigrant experience (Unto the Sons).
How has Talese found his subjects? What has stimulated, blocked, or inspired his writing? Here are his amateur beginnings on his college newspaper; his professional climb at The New York Times; his desire to write on a larger canvas, which led him to magazine writing at Esquire and then to books. We see his involvement with issues of race from his student days in the Deep South to a recent interracial wedding in Selma, Alabama, where he once covered the fierce struggle for civil rights. Here are his reflections on the changing American sexual mores he has written about over the last fifty years, and a striking look at the lives — and their meaning — of Lorena and John Bobbitt. He takes us behind the scenes of his legendary profile of Frank Sinatra, his writings about Joe DiMaggio and heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, and his interview with the head of a Mafia family.
But he is at his most poignant in talking about the ordinary men and women whose stories led to his most memorable work. In remarkable fashion, he traces the history of a single restaurant location in New York, creating an ethnic mosaic of one restaurateurafter the other whose dreams were dashed while a successor's were born. And as he delves into the life of a young female Chinese soccer player, we see his consuming interest in the world in its latest manifestation.
In these and other recollections and stories, Talese gives us a fascinating picture of both the serendipity and meticulousness involved in getting a story. He makes clear that every one of us represents a good one, if a writer has the curiosity to know it, the diligence to pursue it, and the desire to get it right.
Candid, humorous, deeply impassioned — a dazzling book about the nature of writing in one man's life, and of writing itself.
"According to Talese, 'Writing is often like driving a truck at night without headlights, losing your way along the road, and spending a decade in a ditch.' Reading his first substantially new publication since 1992's Unto the Sons is like being in the passenger seat of that truck while it's in motion. Talese begins with a World Cup women's match between China and the United States; the game gives him a story idea, which he then abandons for roughly 300 pages for elegant digressions on, among other things, the civil rights demonstrations in Selma, the Lorena Bobbitt controversy and a string of flopped restaurants in an Upper East Side building. Somehow, he also works in a memoir of his early life, including perfectly etched memories of the New York Times newsroom (without directly reflecting on his prominence as one of the first New Journalists). This sort of thing can drag for long stretches unless you're willing to simply follow along as Talese pursues his impulses wherever they lead him. No matter how frustrating it is as memoir, though, this is a near-perfect expression of Talese's inquisitive personality, an inquisitiveness that has led to some of the outstanding journalism of the past few decades. 150,000 first printing. (Apr. 25) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A Writer's Life will do nothing to diminish Talese's legacy, but this new book is harder to categorize than his previous work....Even with the passage of time these reported pieces in A Writer's Life remain fresh and compelling." Chicago Sun-Times
"Given the cultural significance of many of Talese's works...as examples of long-form nonfiction and of a particular kind of journalism, this memoir serves as an important addition to his writings." Library Journal
"Talese fans, language lovers, and anyone who takes pleasure in the company of an engaging conversationalist will be drawn to this work." Booklist
"Talese shows in an amiably digressive way that this writer's life has comprised not just celebrity and success, but many false starts, failures and frustrations." Kirkus Reviews
"In a memoir-obsessed moment like ours, when tell-all sometimes means exaggerated or condensed 'truth' that truly isn't, Talese's memoir is remarkable. Expect no groveling self-exposure and only limited, albeit explosive, self-analysis." Portland Oregonian
"Mr. Talese's life occupies only 80 pages or so of this 430-page book. The rest merely clears the files of four beloved projects that didn't turn out as he had hoped.... Had Mr. Talese's publisher succeeded in extracting an actual memo" Wall Street Journal
"Throughout his career, Talese has agonized over finding the best voice for telling the story....Talese eventually reached an uneasy peace with first person so that he could complete A Writer's Life. He is probably the better for it." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Talese became a notable journalist for his ability to capture a person....Not surprisingly, the best writing in A Writer's Life is not about Talese himself, but rather the people around him, the fellow writers, editors and night owls, an occasional gangster, and a good many restaurateurs." Newsday
"A Writer's Life is only a failed book, not a failed life. One hopes that Talese has purged himself, and can start anew, with a fresh story he's passionate about telling honestly and clearly. And maybe stew a little less, and write a little faster." New York Times
About the Author
Gay Talese was a reporter for The New York Times from 1956 to 1965. Since then he has written for the Times, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and other national publications. He is the author of eleven books. He lives with his wife, Nan, in New York City.
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