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Troupe of Midget Wrestlers Won’t Work for Small Change

February 5, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.59.48 PMPhoto credit: New York Times, November 30, 1958

I’ve been binge reading Gay Talese for weeks now, and tonight I reached new lows, or highs, depending on how you look at it.  My commute this week has been filled with his 2006 memoir, A Writer’s Life, but tonight, I cracked open “TimesMachine,” the New York Times archive, which stretches all the way back to 1851.  Fortunately for me, my storytelling hero of the moment wrote what looks from the search results like over 1,000 articles in his decade-plus tenure at the Times.  For those without an all-access pass to the archives, here’s an excerpt from an article whose headline screamed clickbait long before clicks were even a thing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.12.49 PM

What I love about Talese is how he notices things. He is so specific, and in his precision an “eight-inch extension onto the brake” is something you know, have always known, even though of course no one has paid the slightest attention to it before.  It is a craft, this ability to get it right, to sift through all the possible images to paint the one that has meaning. I have been honing this ability at work over the last 18 months, and my whetsone is my colleague and friend Roy, who never lets (me let) go of the craft. Even when something feels finished, he finds the places it isn’t and whittles them away.  I find myself quoting Proverbs when I think of how his noticing things echoes how I feel reading Gay Talese: it makes me better at what I do.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

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