Sewing Words

by Patrick Appel

Gay Talese would never make it as a blogger. It takes him all morning to write a page. From an interview with the Paris Review:

All the other reporters of my generation would come back from an assignment and be done with their piece in a half hour. For the rest of the afternoon they'd be reading books or playing cards or drinking coffee in the cafeteria, and I was always very much alone. I didn't carry on conversations during those hours. I just wanted to make my article perfect, or as good as I could get it. So I rewrote and rewrote, feeling that I needed every minute of the working day to improve my work. I did this because I didn't believe that it was just journalism, thrown away the next day with the trash. I always had a sense of tomorrow. I never turned in anything more than two minutes before deadline. It was never easy, I felt I had only one chance. I was working for the paper of record, and I believed that what I was doing was going to be part of a permanent history.

I once met Talese. I've never spoken to an author whose writing process sounded more painful, but the final pieces have a silky finish to them that is only possible when one mulls over words ad nauseam for days and weeks and months. Both the sort of suits he is known for wearing and his prose are built to last.

(Hat tip: Kottke)