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Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Weschler’

Journalists Remember Ryszard Kapuscinski

15080_kapuscinski_ryszard.gifOver the last few days, GalleyCat attended the The Art of Reportage in the 21st Century, a look at the future of literary journalism. The event focused on the life, work, and influence of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, author of “The Emperor” and “The Soccer War (pictured).”

Here are a few of the many highlights: “If you asked a Polish mother in the 1950s and 60s what she wanted her son to be when he grew up, she would say a writer,” laughed Wiktor Osiatynski, a writer and close friend of Kapuscinski–talking about the unique literary environment that produced the journalist. “Would an American mother would want this kind of misery for her child?”

Long-form journalist Ted Conover (read his work here) read the audience this quote from an inspiring Granta interview with Kapuscinski: “Twenty years ago, I was in Africa, and this is what I saw: I went from revolution to coup d’e tat, from one war to another; I witnessed, in effect, history in the making, real history, contemporary history, our history. But I was also surprised: I never saw a writer. I never met a poet or a philosopher–even a sociologist. Where were they? Such important events, and not a single writer anywhere?”

Finally, longtime New Yorker staff writer and NYU professor Lawrence Weschler visited the Morning Media Menu to share his thoughts on literary journalism: “The great old editor William Shawn told me, ‘I don’t hire writers, I hire voices. You could always teach a voice to report, but it is much more difficult to teach a reporter to have a voice.’ It’s become more and more a touchstone of what I do, the insistence that a voice is there.”

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And the NBCC Awards Go To…

While NBCC Board member Rebecca Skloot liveblogged the awards, Ron and I sat through a somewhat speedy ceremony emceed by president John Freeman and highlighted by Mary Gordon‘s glowing retrospective and tribute (accompanied by retro Jill Krementz photography) to Sandrof winner John Leonard, followed by Leonard’s own words, a speech so filled with mirth, self-deprecation and reflections on present and past reviewing that I hope the transcript is made publicly available at some point. Nona Balakian winner Steven G. Kellman was a quote-a-minute, namechecking the gamut from H.L. Mencken (who had unkind words about criticism and even more scathing words about poetry – partly because of a volume he himself had written and then done everything in his power to squelch) to Lily Tomlin (“we’re all in this together – alone,” as applied to book critics, who Kellman quipped “are the only critics who can do their job in their underwear.”)

Then came the awards:

Criticism: Lawrence Weschler, EVERYTHING THAT RISES: A BOOK OF CONVERGENCES (McSweeney’s)
Poetry: Troy Jollimore, TOM THOMSON IN PURGATORY (Margie/Intuit House)
Biography: Julie Phillips
Autobiography: Daniel Mendelsohn, THE LOST (HarperCollins)
Fiction: Kiran Desai, THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS (Atlantic Monthly Press)

It’s an award winner list of some surprise – Jollimore’s win especially surprised the poetry faithful in the audience – and some that might have seemed like a surprise, like Desai, but on further reflection are just about right. Ron’s got more about notable quotes and the afterparty, but I’m especially happy to have chatted with John Leonard about his new prize, his belief that literary blogs are “where the passion is” and finding good books to read that might be off most people’s radar. It doesn’t get much better than that.