We talked about how to drop a reader into a place – be it Patagonia, on a train, in Bombay or Beijing – with a sympathetic voice, and observed details. There are many ways of doing this: retelling a childhood dream about going there, shoving off from home and describing your fellow passengers, recounting first-night notebook fragments, and having a main character walk on stage (“The Widow opens my door without knocking.”).
We also heard presentations on Ian Johnson and David Foster Wallace. Links to their work can be found in the Readings sections of this site.
For the next class, read Gay Talese, Bill Buford (Granta), George Plimpton (The Paris Review) and Katha Pollitt (an award-winning columnist for The Nation). Many of you have asked whether your final writing assignment can be in the first-person. Yes! So much of the literary journalism we’ve read this term uses “I” as a character. As you’re reading the four authors above, note how they incorporate “I” (or not); how much information do they tell the reader about themselves, about their relation to the subject and story? And, as ever, make note of where the writer uses summary and scene – and why.
The theme for next class is Subjectivity, so on that note, I emailed you a short talk from a Nieman Lecture at Harvard on using “I.” It’s from a nice compilation titled “Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer’s Guide from the Nieman Foundation,” which is in the HKU library, once Alexis returns it.
Turn in redrafts on paper next class, 4/11. If you have questions about your final 2,500-word story, don’t hesitate to email. I’m looking forward to reading your work – good things going on in class, keep it up.