"The life-changing message of 'On Writing Well' is: simplify your language and thereby find your humanity." William Zinsser, journalist and nonfiction writer, passed away earlier this month. His book, "On Writing Well," is one of the definitive works on the craft of writing. [more inside]
The Millions has finished its Year In Reading for 2013. Sixty-eight people, including Metafilter's own Stephen Dodson, write about the books they read in 2013. Highlights include Choire Sicha, editor at The Awl, Sergio de la Pava, who wrote A Naked Singularity, and Rachel Kushner, who wrote The Flamethrowers. Full list here.
Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
Director's cut: "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved": An annotated look back at one of Hunter S. Thompson's greatest hits. [more inside]
Conceived as sort of a companion to Longreads, Longform, Pocket, Byliner, etc., Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good? series looks at why some great long-form journalism and narrative nonfiction pieces are so great. There are over 60 installments of writers talking shop about writing. [more inside]
"I can’t imagine a nonfiction writer who wasn’t influenced by the fiction he or she had read. But the “thriller-like pacing” you find in my writing may come more from my own beat than from thrillers. I walk fast and am impatient. I get bored easily—no less with my own ideas than with those of others. Writing for me is a process of constantly throwing out stuff that doesn’t seem interesting enough. I grew up in a family of big interrupters." Janet Malcolm interviewed by Katie Roiphe in The Paris Review.
Launching today is Byliner, both a portal to the best narrative nonfiction from around the web, and a publishing platform for original works. Some additional background here.
Looking for something to read? Check out the best journalism Conor Friedersdorf encountered in 2009. And in 2008. He also updates a twitter feed with pieces he comes across that he either missed or that might make onto a 2010 list.
John McPhee writes about basketball, headmasters, oranges, tennis, hybrid airships, nuclear weapons, bark canoes, Alaska, the Swiss Army, the merchant marines, dissident Soviet artists, shad, long-distance trucking, and - Pulitzer Prize-winningly - geology (282kb PDF). He discusses his work here. [more inside]
"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian. Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)