The godfather of narrative nonfiction said this weekend he didn’t know any women worth reading. Here are some suggestions.
At a conference full of ambitious journalists, many of them women, Gay Talese was asked which women writers he admired. His answer? « None. »
Gay Talese is basically a founding father of « narrative » or « longform » journalism — true stories written like novels, full of rich details and beautiful scenes and lots of interesting characters. He talked about his career at a conference at Boston University April 1-3 focused on the craft. But he couldn't think of a single woman writer he liked. Even when someone helpfully shouted out, « Joan Didion? » from the audience. She's not his thing, apparently.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters
In 2013, Joan Didion was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House. Didion is considered a legend in the world of narrative journalism. Her first nonfiction book, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, is part of the canon of the genre. It came out in 1968, two years after the article « Frank Sinatra Has a Cold » put Talese at the forefront of nonfiction writing. You know, at a time that maybe he was also reading books.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Inspiring magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones was alongside Talese in the conference's keynote slots. Just a month before the conference, she won a prestigious George Polk Award for her coverage of school segregation. She's a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine. She talked about how to tell better stories on complicated social issues.
Karen Hanley / Via nikolehannahjones.com