Today’s Mother Jones online features a fascinating interview with Gene Weingarten, now a semi-retired
humor columnist for The Washington Post, who won two Pulitzer prizes for feature writing, most recently for his story about parents who forgetfully leave their children locked inside hot cars. He’s the author of The Fiddler in the Subway, a collection of his stories that originally appeared in the Post and its Sunday magazine. Interviewer Michael Mechanic writes that “very few living nonfiction writers could ever hope to match Weingarten’s mastery of pace, place, and character.”
Weingarten’s drug-addled early life and his thoughts on the craft of narrative journalism are worth pondering, especially this insight dealing with scene and structure:
Basically, I think the art or craft of long-form narrative mostly boils down to figuring out internal kickers—how each section will end. Then you need to build the section to justify the kicker, to make it fair, and clear, and earned. I never start a section of the story without knowing how it will end. I also consciously try to shape the story as though it were a movie. I really try to think cinematically, because that’s how people read. They create a theater in their minds.
The complete interview is here.
Summer nonfiction reading list
Mother Jones also features an interesting story from the May-June issue on the favorite nonfiction books of twelve literary stars, including Michael Pollan, Michael Chabon, and Susan Orlean. And Nick Hornby, who loves one of my favorites, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life.