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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2005
For any inspiring journalists or writers, avid readers, and followers of media trends in this country, this book is a great look into how journalists and writers do what they do.

The book is organized as a series of interview transcripts, asking each reporter how they do what they do. From "What is your daily routine?" to "How do you come up with ideas?" and "How do you decide who to interview?", the questions are very nicely worded to offer the reader the right information.

What emerges through the unique voices of each writer is a picture of creative non-fiction, a genre combining old-school reporting methods and forward-looking creative thinking and ways of presenting information.

This book is hard to read in one sitting, since the questions in each interview are pretty much the same and can get repetitive. However, it is a great book to pick up from time to time and read bits of and I certainly have loved working through it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2005
If you want to know how those stylish writers at the New Yorker pull off those long, fascinating "fact" pieces, this is the book for you. The author has interviewed over a dozen of what he calls the "new new" journalists, and the interviews reveal some of their tricks of the trade, working methods, approach, attitude, etc. I think those who aspire to write in this way will get the most out of this book, because reading it is like sitting down with these top-flight journalists and picking their brains.

I give it 3 stars because it's not a work of art or anything . . . I mean, the same questions, more or less, are repeated in each interview, and the intro to each chapter distills information and quotes that follow in the chapter, so I don't see this book as being a grand literary achievement per se. But it's useful, and I came away from it with an increased appreciation of how hard these journalists work--sometimes staying with the same story for months or years, and putting hundreds or thousands of hours into one long article. (Of course, when they expand the article into a book, the time they invested continues to produce returns.) Anyway, if you are a journalist or are someone interested in the way high-level literary journalism is currently being carried out, you'll find what you're looking for in this paperback original.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is a great book, especially for nonfiction writers. It covers everything from the mechanics of writing (e.g., the best time of day to write, the number of words per writing session we promise ourselves) to the complexities of fieldwork and interviewing strategies, how to synthesize vast amounts of information, and how to stimulate the creative process. The fieldwork and interviewing strategies of these journalists very much resemble what I use as an applied anthropologist focusing on Africa, and poorer nations generally. In fact, some of these journalists either had anthropological training, or, like Leon Dash, they are good-naturedly referred to as "our staff anthropologist" by their colleagues.

The link between "new journalism" and anthropology is primarily the participant-observation fieldwork technique these journalists use, basically meaning that they live among and share the lives of those they write about. Total immersion. Of course, anthropologists traditionally did ethnographic fieldwork for least at least 1-2 years before writing about their adopted society, while journalists typically spend less time researching an article or book.

I found myself underlining this book on almost every other page. There are little gems strewn everywhere. Nineteen journalists were interviewed for this book and I did not encounter one that I found uninteresting or who did not teach me something valuable for the work and writing I do myself.

One recurring theme is that these writers often challenge and overturn conventional wisdom. For example, journalist William Finnegan (two of whose books I happen to have read) went to Somalia in 1995 expecting to find little more than anarchy, anomie and mayhem. Instead he found "wild, frontier capitalism," and vibrant, unrestrained entrepreneurship, made possible in part by "having no dictator around." I did a 2-week information-gathering assignment in Somali in 1984, and my colleagues will tell you that all I raved for weeks after this experience was the "vibrant unrestrained, entrepreneurship" I unexpectedly encountered. And there was still a dictator around then.

I was relatively young in my career then and I wondered at the time if my "quick and dirty" field methods might have been flawed. After all, no one I read or spoke to about Somalia ever mentioned entrepreneurship. (Hmmmm....I am wondering if Finnegan somehow stumbled upon my obscure 1984 Somalia report for USAID? But no, that building must have been burned down.)

I am happy to recommend Boynton`s book to anyone who does, or attempts to do, nonfiction writing, which means an audience that extends far beyond journalism.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Literary nonfiction, once considered the asinine sidecar to the novel's Harley Davidson, made extensive gains in the 1960's with the emergence of such charismatic storytellers as Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote. Christening themselves the New Journalists, these writers were prone to extended sprees of rock stardom with a notepad, often at the expense of factual sincerity. Such landmark texts as Wolfe's The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test or Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas made reporting secondary to entertainment value.

The New New Journalism by Robert S. Boynton bawls a hefty yawp in announcing, "The days in which nonfiction writers test the limits of language and form have largely passed." To prove it, Boynton, the director of New York University's graduate magazine journalism program, has compiled nineteen of his interviews with contemporary journalists who bear more resemblance to the muckrakers of the 19th Century than to the famously dubbed New Journalists of the 20th. We find that the biting sizzle of a Hunter S. Thompson has been swapped for the incessant inquiry and cataloguing of the New News.

But even if such glory mongering has been overthrown by a militia of Joe Fridays who want "just the facts," readers of today's non-fiction are not complaining thanks to the sheer depth of revelation sustained by what Rolling Nowhere author Ted Conover considers "participant observer" journalism. It is an arena where relentless scrutinizers of fact avoid leaping into the fracas themselves, offering instead a detached play-by-play of the weighty social, political, and cultural racket that surrounds them. At times they must become what Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, calls "the worm in the apple."

If nothing else, this book is a handy crash course for aspiring writers, and it leaves readers speculating about future styles of non-fiction. Perhaps "New New New" Journalism will preserve honest reporting without dumping the literary aspirations of Wolfe's era. In the meantime, Boynton's text holds that reportorial intensity must eclipse artistic razzmatazz.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
First of all, I'd like to say I disagree with previous reviews than mention the repetition of question between the book's interviewees as a flaw. Robert Boynton is trying to offer us a complete radiography of the working processes of current literary journalists, and he interviews a great number of today's best known names. Each time you read one of the interviews you may discover a very different approach towards the methods of the other writers. I consider one of the books strengths' that I can see some authors work from a complete, detailed outline, whereas other work from organic writing. Besides, there is some personalization in every single one of the interviews, expanding on certain aspects of each of the writer's careers.
Mr. Boynton does distill the quotes of the interviews, but he also offers something quite unique in this type of books, which is both the positive and negative reviews the various journalists works here listed have received.
One of the great things about this title is not only its instructional value, but the ideas about the current state of affairs that emerge upon reading it. For example, the current trend of non fiction being more and more in the realm of books, not of magazines, or the fact it is almost entirely limited to the United States and UK (tell me about it! I live in Spain, and whereas there used to be a sound tradition of literary journalists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the panorama is fairly bleak nowadays).
Overall, this is a very interesting volume, not to be read in one sitting, which would make a good base for a creative nonfiction course. By the way, if you get it, I recommend you buy "The complete New Yorker" along with it, as most writers in the book have published for this magazine. I sometimes check what they are stating in their interviews towards their articles from the New Yorker, and this gives my reading experience some further depth.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2005
Boynton's work is a unique idea and is somewhat of an education in itself: interviews with some of the best non-fiction writers around about craft and procedure. However, the problem lays not so much in the interviews with the authors but the way Boynton packages the information in his book. Almost all of the writers are asked the same questions and after several hundred pages, this wears thin. In all the book totals 430 pages. If he narrowed down the list of writers and added some diversity in his questions and presentation of their interviews, it would be a more enjoyable and even beneficial read.
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There is a genius in the format of this book: interviews with 19 of the best nonfiction storytellers of our time, which ask the same questions in the same order for each one.

The genius comes from ways the writers converge and diverge in their approaches. They converge on the basics: the need to develop great characters, with deep psychological needs, often denied and unknown to them; the need to explore places and action and find the details that everyone else misses; the need to have empathy for the subjects but to take command of the work without compromise.

They diverge on some methods. Some would never dream of recording interviews and others think it impossible to do it any other way. Some people want to talk on the phone, others in offices, others in diners, and others on the road. Some want to start at the center of the story and others work from the edges in toward the center. Some stress with the writing process and others breeze through. Some make their own presence known in their work and others are invisible.

Reading this book is like sitting in on a modern day Algonquin Round Table. You get wit and wisdom and some great tricks of the trade.

Ultimately, to write well you need to do what the stars have been doing since people started telling stories thousands of years ago. Storytelling is the most essential part of being human. The techniques and subjects change, but the essentials of conflict and development and denial and love and hate and fear and all the rest remain the same.

As you read these great authors -- Trillin, Lewis, Orlean, Talese, Krakauer, Harr, Finnegan, and the rest -- also read some other guides to writing. You can try my ], which walks you through storytelling, mechanics, and analysis, step by step, with 90-something simple tricks of the trade (with examples, some from the book udner review). Or you can read Bill Zinsser's On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, still useful four decades after its publication. For the fine points of grammar and style, read Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (4th Edition).

But it's a delight to listen in on the conversations with the greats. Try 'em all and you'll be on your way.
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on July 22, 2010
This book is basically just a lot of nonfiction writers getting interviewed about how they write. It ranges from how they specifically wrote some of their greatest books to how they just write in general. It's a great book because all of the writer's have very different approaches. It has helped me find out how I like to write.
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on April 7, 2013
The book gives interviews with several well known writers about how they conduct interviews, follow-up leads and create stories. Their individual methods, styles and subject vary so it's a kind of cross the board look. It was interesting but I'm not sure really helpful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2005
The New New Journalism is a fascinating peek into the techniques, thoughts and attitudes of immersion journalists, who spend months or even years with their subjects. I loved it!
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