When I was in college, my journalism professors urged us to read the work of writers such as Gay Talese or Tom Wolfe who wrote nonfiction using the techniques of fiction. In the 1960s and 70s, they called this New Journalism. Today I think you’d call it writing interestingly.
Fiction writers of the period also dabbled in this style of writing. Norman Mailer is primarily known as a novelist, but when he wrote his “nonfiction novel,” The Executioner’s Song, he basically reported the shit out of murderer Gary Gilmore’s life and wrote the story like a novel. Closer to our time, David Eggers did something similar with Zeitoun. The novelist who first showed everyone how it could be done was Truman Capote, who wrote In Cold Blood.
Earlier this year, I came across this fascinating 1957 profile Capote did of Marlon Brando for The New Yorker. It’s a fun read and far lighter than throwing yourself into a book about a family that was annihilated in Kansas. But just this week I came across this article in the Columbia Journalism Review about the writing of Capote’s Brando piece, and why it was so groundbreaking for its time. I’m posting the links here because I want to be able to track them down when I need them again.
The more I distance myself from journalism, the more I become a junkie for this kind of writing.