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The Art of Fact


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The authors (both English and journalism, Univ. of Delaware) compiled this excellent anthology for their students in a college course in literary journalism. In their introductions, they define literary journalism as factual, innovative, and current stories about an event, making the point that this "new" journalism is not really new but has been practiced for many years. The journalists included range from Charles Dickens and Jack London to Gay Talese and Joan Didion. Kerrane and Yagoda give brief biographies of the writers, usually telling why they chose the particular work, when the piece was written, and where it first appeared. This book is recommended for journalism collections but it could easily find interested readers in most libraries.‘Rebecca Wondriska, Trinity Coll. Lib., Hartford, Ct.

There is a lot of wonderful writing here, but the book is organized more as a textbook than as a collection for general readers. The headnotes not only are sketchily biographical but often furnish pithy, stylistic particulars about technique when the writer displays an approach that sets off his or her work from others'. Yet despite the care in the selection of historical extracts (from Defoe to Jack London) as well as of more contemporary examples, there are no explanatory notes. The journalists represented are both name figures, such as Hemingway and Mailer, and top newspaper and magazine pros; and the selections range from appalling to moving to hilarious. Although many memorable lines are too idiosyncratic to be lessons to aspiring writers, Rosemary Mahoney's description of two Irishwomen‘one with short hair "laid on in clumps, like sod," the other with longer hair "like Spanish moss"‘inspires admiration. Perhaps the shortest and certainly among the best is Michael Winerip's 800-word column from the New York Times in 1987, "Holiday Pageant: The Importance of Being Bluebell," a gem of observation, selective quotation and sensitivity. As the editors Kerrane (Dollar Sign on the Muscle) and Yagoda (Will Rogers) demonstrate, there is an art of fact. (Aug.)

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