Larry McMurtry on Why Writers Shouldn’t be Interviewed: Some, After All, Are Professional Liars

One of the more debatable assumptions upon which the literary interview rests is that the artist is likely to reveal something of value about the process or the intent of his art. Whether or not anything accurate is revealed is highly speculative.

John Barth observed that when writers are working they are like athletes, creatures in motion, operating from highly trained and often very subtle instincts. They may be able, later, to talk very intelligently of why they did what they did, but it is an explanation arrived at after the fact and it may be more ingenious than accurate.

Journalism Needs More Dog Stories—a Puppy Might Make the President More Popular, Too

Golden Retrievers have that hair color the president likes.

Some mornings I wish the Washington Post was an afternoon paper so I could have a stiff drink before reading it. Headlines on today’s page one:

Risk of shutdown rises over mistrust
Inside the tense, vulgar meeting on immigration
A warning to asylum seekers
Metro derails again
Shrinking Medicaid

Headlines on the editorial page:

Mr. Trump’s toxic influence
An overtaxed IRS
Change for the worse

On the op-ed page:

“Bring People to Life on the Page and Recreate the Atmosphere.”

Tracy Kidder talking about narrative writing in the context of his book, Among Schoolchildren:

The ingredients of good narrative are characters, bringing people to life on the page, and the sense of plot, as E.M. Forster defined it. “The king died and the queen died” is a story; “the king died and the queen died of grief” is a plot. The engine of narrative is human motivation.

With nonfiction, of course, you’re stuck with what is, what was. I don’t like to invent quotes. I try to make it as accurate as I can. But within those boundaries, what really interests me is some kind of marriage of all these things.

Those Damn Editors, Those Flawed Writers

Jack Shafer, media writer for Politico and many years ago the editor of Washington City Paper, this week tweeted:

I’m going to shoot the next editor who calls me asking me if I can recommend an accomplished feature writer who’s young, productive, and willing to work for peanuts.

Some responses on Twitter:

Felix Salmon
but can you recommend a telegenic young woman who can produce big scoops every day or so, while also working to a bonkers post quota, and who is also willing to work for peanuts?

Advice That May Seem Quaint But She Did Write Great Stories for 70 Years

Lillian Ross and New Yorker editor William Shawn in the 1960s.

—From Reporting, a book by Lillian Ross, a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker. She died September 20, 2017, at the age of 99.

All I have to offer as answers to the question of “how” are some  principles—some of them old, instinctive ones that guided me from the beginning, and others that I learned, and learned to define, along the way.

Write as clearly and simply and straightforwardly as possible.

A Tale of Two Cities: Big Washington Is Too Large to Bring People Together, Little Washington Is Too Small to Keep Them Apart

Town Hall, Washington, Virginia.

Big cities—and the big media centered in those cities—seemed out of touch with the rest of the country in 2016: “That idiot Trump won?” Donald Trump did win and he carried 31 of the 50 states, causing big media in Washington and New York City to think maybe they should send a reporter out to the countryside to find out what happened. Who are those Trump voters?

Michael Wolff and Kitty Kelley: Both Took Heat and Sold a Lot of Books

John Podhoretz‏ on Twitter, January 5, 2018:

In essence, Michael Wolff is the new Kitty Kelley—shoddily sourced book asserting everything in equal measure; there’s no way of knowing which stories are true and so all stories are retailed as true.

The “shoddily sourced” Kitty Kelley book that Podhoretz references is The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty; it was published in September 2004, eight weeks before the 2004 presidential election.

Despite the book and a general media attitude that President George W. Bush would deservedly lose to Senator John Kerry, Bush won 31 states and Kerry won 19, the same state breakdown as the Donald Trump win over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

How Headlines on Stories Can Say a Lot About How Journalism Is Now Being Done

Most of the Washingtonian stories I edited were long—3,000 to 6,000 words—and to find good stories I looked for writers who knew a lot about a subject—politics, crime, education, health care, sports, etc. Then sitting down with a writer, I’d ask about any story ideas the writer had and we’d talk about the lay of the land in the subject area. One way we got some fix on a story was to ask, “What kind of headline would we put on it?” The idea was to narrow the focus enough so we both thought we had something the writer wanted to write and the magazine wanted to publish.

Then and Now: Washingtonians Are Happier When People We Know Are Running the Country

Newcomers to Washington: Hamilton Jordan and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office.

Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia, was elected president in 1976, taking office after four Washington insiders—John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford—had occupied the White House for 16 years. Like President Trump in 2017, President Carter came to Washington in 1977 as very much an outsider.

After President Carter had been in office for a year, the Washingtonian asked some longtime residents of the nation’s capital “So What Do You Think of the New People?”

The Washington Post Has a Little Fun With Jeff Bezos

From “Dave Barry’s Year in Review,” the December 31 cover story in the Washington Post Magazine:

Amazon, aka the Death Star of Retail, becomes even larger and more powerful when it announces plans to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, or enough money to buy nearly four pounds of top sirloin at current Whole Foods prices.

In business news, Amazon purchases the state of Montana, which the retail giant plans to use, according to its press release, for “storage.”

In a welcome diversion toward the end of this tumultuous month, Americans are treated to a rare celestial display as the sun is totally eclipsed by a 2,000-mile-wide Amazon logo.