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« Susan Orlean | Main | Richard Walter »
Monday
May072012

Gay Talese

How did you become a writer? I desired to be a writer from reading wonderful writers when I was in grade school.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.) Writers who influenced me included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Carson McCullers, John O'Hara and Irwin Shaw. These are writers I read between high school and college. Later, I came under the influence of writers closer to my own age: John Fowles, Philip Roth, and many contributors to The New Yorker magazine, such as Joe Mitchell, A.J. Liebling, E.B. White and John Cheever.  Finally, there was a history teacher of the French Revolutionary period, at the University of Alabama, Prof. Bernard C. Weber, who greatly influenced me in story-telling technique and scene-setting. He was a dramatic orator, and his retelling of the court life of the Bourbon kings prior to and during the French revolution so captured my imagination as a student that I wanted to write as Dr. Weber spoke: filled with visual detail, precise descriptions of places and artifacts and personal characteristics (the pocked skin of Louis 14th, and the power he used in an attempt to cover it up), etc…. This really is the way to learn: to listen to someone who not only knows the material, but knows how to communicate it. As a nonfiction writer, I try to do just that: really know what I'm writing about, and know how to make it clear and interesting in presenting it.

When and where do you write? I write in a private place under my house (no telephone, no windows; a converted wine cellar that I call "the bunker.")  

What are you working on now? I'm working on a book for Knopf on a fifty-year marriage (nonfiction)--my own marriage; also doing some magazine pieces, one a profile for The New Yorker on the manager of the Yankees, Joe Girardi.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? No, but I write so slowly--and never rush myself because I try to achieve quality and never quantity . . . that some fast and facile people might think I'm blocked. But I'm not. I prefer writing little that I love to writing a lot just to keep my name in print.

What’s your advice to new writers? Take your time. Your name is on it. It should always be your best.

Bio: Born in l932 in Ocean City, N.J. (13 miles south of Atlantic City); attended University of Alabama l949-53; worked for New York Times as staff writer (1956-65); have written many articles for The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine; have published eleven books, many of them translated into several languages. Married since l959 to Nan Talese, publisher with her own imprint at Doubleday; we have two daughters, Pamela and Catherine, both residing, as we do, in New York City.

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