Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Return of Gay Talese

It's been 14 years since Gay Talese last published a book. In this accelerated culture, 14 years is an entire epoch, and I'm not sure many readers have given Talese a second thought since then. He might as well have been dead.

But now he is finally emerging with a new book called A Writer's Life. Don't let that straightforward title fool you. This is not some sentimental look back at a quiet literary life as pondered from the comfort of a chintz wingback chair, but a wildly discursive, occasionally messy, intermittently brilliant discourse on racism, sexism, sports, culture, food, et al. What it's really all about is Talese, in my view the greatest magazine feature writer of all time, and his search for an identity that existed outside of his profession.

Charles McGrath has written a feature about Talese and his struggles with A Writer's Life in this Sunday's Arts and Leisure section. It's a very nice summation of where Talese has been and what he was trying to accomplish with A Writer's Life. I for one am thrilled to see Talese back on the radar, and I hope people pay attention to the book.

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