gay talese interview

RB: In A Writer’s Life, you are sitting at a restaurant and you see a man eating a fish—then the paragraph continues on for another page or so—it reminded me of when we were in high school biology and you are shown a drop of water under a microscope—

GT: Yeah, it’s the imagination of the nonfiction writer. It is nonfiction we are dealing with, as you know—it’s what can be—the way of seeing is very private but can be very creative, and you can take any assignment, any subject, and write about it if you can see it in a vividly descriptive or instructive way. And as you mentioned, I am a restaurant-goer. I go to restaurants a lot. I work alone all day. At night I like to have something to do where I am around people and a restaurant is the best excuse of being around people. I don’t care about the food that much. I care about the atmosphere. Restaurants are a wonderful escape for me. And are for a lot of people. People go to restaurants for so many different reasons. To court a girl, to make some deal. Maybe to talk to some lawyer about how to get an alimony settlement better than they got last week. What I have done since I was 50 years younger than I am now—which is to say 24; now I am 74—I think what I do is write nonfiction as if it were fiction. On the other hand, it is clearly, verifiably factual—but it is a story. It is storytelling. It isn’t telling you a story of somebody you already know. It is, more often than not, somebody you do not know. Or if it is somebody that you do know that I am writing about, it will be something that you don’t know about that person. It is a way of seeing, a way of going about the process of research. It might be interviewing, or it might be hanging around. For example, many colleges in their writing programs teach some of my work. What they often do is teach something like “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” something I wrote when I was 25 years younger or more. That isn’t about Frank Sinatra at all. I didn’t even talk to Frank Sinatra—

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