Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gay Talese story in NYO -- meh

There’s a piece today in the New York Observer about Gay Talese. It captures something about what it’s like to have a conversation with the man, although I don’t really understand why the main theme of the story is procrastination. I guess because “A Writer’s Life” is being published so many years after his last book?

I’ve had the pleasure of having dinner with Gay and Nan a few times, and of sitting in their townhouse, drinking Scotch and listening to Gay spin yarns (something he does very, very well in person, not just on the page). Reading the NYO piece makes me glad that much of Talese’s work is autobiographical, because obviously we can’t leave it up to those profiling him today to do a very good job. Like Oakland, there’s no THERE there. I found the NYO story thin, and I certainly didn’t learn anything new about Gay by reading it (Gay wears handmade suits! You don’t say!). I think the writer should take a page from Gay when it comes to researching, and getting to know, his subjects.

Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t grouse, because you know, hey, I never took a stab at profiling Gay. So whatever. I just thought the story was a little weak – he’s such an amazing person, it seems like that would translate into a rich, nuanced profile if only the writer put a little more elbow grease into it.

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