Gay Talese on the Questions that Guide Us

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Every time I go to a journalism class, invited by some guy at NYU or Columbia, after the class is over, and I’m about to leave to go to dinner somewhere, somebody comes up to me. “Mr. Talese, can I have your address? I’d like to write to you.” I say, “Listen, I’m here now to talk to you, but I’m going back home and maybe I’m going to leave town because I have something I want to write.” Because you know what’s going to happen? They’re going to send me a novel, a short story, an article. And they’re going to want me to place it for them. “How do I publish this? Do you know how I can get an agent?” And what’s going to happen then is I’m going to possibly disappoint them enormously. Or two things might happen: I’m going to read what they wrote and it’s going to be terrible. Or maybe it’s going to be good. Then I have to find an agent or try to place it with an editor. And they turn it down. Then I have to go back to this NYU student who thought I was Ernest Hemingway and say, “Look, I can’t do that anymore because I can’t guarantee I’ll get it published.” C–, I can’t get my own stuff published some of the time! “Ali in Havana” got turned down by 11 or 12 editors. The last thing Sinatra wants to do is to be the godfather to this girl at USC.  – Gay Talese on how he captured Sinatra’s heartbreaking response to an old friend

I don’t share these links often, but there’s so much to glean here. This is an annotated interview with one of the greatest living journalists Gay Talese on a piece he wrote about Frank Sinatra, currently trending on Twitter.

Do you see the golden opportunity here? To learn the all-important questions that guide a master in his craft: why and how and what to pay attention to…

Writers who take the time to listen will learn a lot….

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