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The Jones interview with Wright Thompson

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by littlehurt98, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. littlehurt98

    littlehurt98 Member

    An interesting read. I found Thompson's view of the first person rule being dumb interesting. I guess I shouldn't be surprised based on the way he writes, but still.


    YGBFKM Guest

    Boy, can I relate to that.

    YGBFKM Guest

    Amen. Writing is an intensely personal endeavor. Why rip the heart out of it if you don't have to?
  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    The Jones? I thought we'd been over that.
  5. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    As I said on Facebook, I would die happy for one beer with the grouping of Jones, Thompson, MacGregor, Pierce and Van Valkenburg.
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I hadn't been aware of Gangrey.com, and certainly won't be posting anything there, just some interesting things to read.
  7. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Yeah. Please.
  8. TigerVols

    TigerVols Well-Known Member

    Honestly, I read it this way. Seriously.
  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    We've been talking about Wright lately, who can afford to do this kind of work (ESPN, obviously) and who can't. And how much of our particular readership is going to be engaged by the type of work that he does.

    The interview was impressive and a fun read -- and if you have't read Holy Ground ... geez.
  10. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    That's how it was intended, actually.
  11. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Very interesting interview.Thompson's answer on the first person voice isn't surprising.

    But it's not the risk he imagines it to be, or even breaking a cardinal rule.

    The Gay Talese voice, as Thompson names it, is a calling. A standard. An aspiration. It means you channeled your own change - small or large (usually small in comparison to the subject) as a writer, a human, whatever - into style, into creative device that makes clear to the reader the change and point of view without officially declaring it as yours. You don't own the change; the change is presented as an offering to the reader as communion. The universality of 3PO gives power and resonance more often than the word "I." The exception, of course, is in autobiography. Like Thompson's "Holy Ground" story, which can be told one way, and remains, quite easily, his best story.

    3PO allows, for one thing, the reader to grapple with the idea of the truth - and decide whether she agrees - or cannot abide by it. 1P is an out - <i>this is truth as it pertains to me, so how can it not be true?</i> - that draws attention to the writer's personage, not the story itself. It's far less challenging - confession is popular now, individual, relative truth, <i>life in these shoes</i> - and it's hard to be drawn into stories where the writer is such a visible filter, so willing to translate this experience through a very specific lens. In participatory journalism - say, Paper Lion - there's a necessity, but, again - that's in part autobiography.

    Thompson truly - truly! - strains the concept. It is not "autobiography" to make a column about the decline of Ali into a patchwork quilt of brief personal thoughts after one night. It is, as Thompson says, just easier to do. Where his thoughts most naturally begin.

    But to argue that it's "intellectually dishonest" to do anything else suggests a lack of, oh, creative curiosity on Thompson's part. Who knows where he could push his craft toward? It may even crash and burn entirely, but he appears to be saying "first impulse is best impulse." And while first impulse is probably the most emotional impulse - emotions and impulses exaggerate their import. And while Thompson doesn't lack for prodigious talent - a single portion of his writing can serve as a delicious amuse bouche - he goes to the 1P well so quickly, so reflexively, that there's no sense of creative danger ahead. <i>Where will this go? What can't be predicted?</i> The questions have been answered. In the case of the Ali column, it will be a 1P account filled brief thoughts on a famous man. The writing can be wonderful - and it often is. But it has lost some sense of creative unpredictability. Where will it go? It is already there. You will always know who is speaking. He has already told you it is sad. You are bound to that emotion. The camera, so to speak, has someone in front of it, and even if they leave from the view for minutes or a hour...if it started there, you have some sense of the story being edited to fit the purpose of memory.

    Imagine if, for a second, "Racehorse" were rewritten in the manner Thompson suggests. You have seen the death of a horse. Your first emotional impulse is, what? The callous manner is which it was done? That fans in the stands cared more for the finish of the race before turning their concern to the lame? The brutality of sport - of the world?

    And then imagine framing the Racehorse story with that lens. Does anyone get to speak before the writer declares the appropriate emotion with which to read the story? Is the "theme" presented as a lens through which the story marches? Can theme be buried in the words so quietly that it only resonates upon a second or third glance?

    The comparison is valid, to certain extent, because Thompson's "Ali" column shares some commonalities with the Racehorse piece, especially in the way the crowd peers in grotesquely at this former great boxer. But consider that Racehorse appears seamless, its impact almost missed, over too soon, and necessary to read again, and consider how Ali can almost be read in parts, with whole sentences skipped over, as if a casserole with unheated, inedible spots in it. It decent comfort food. <i>This is sad. Read what follows. Now it is over. Wasn't it sad? To things getting better!</i>

    1PO is not the plague. It can be used, especially when offered up as "me." But Thompson uses it so prominently, arguably reflexively (as his answer seems to indicate) that warrants legitimate criticism that isn't connected to "being a school marm." It has nothing to do with that. Rather, it has to do with Thompson's apparent "antennae of Babel" - his ability to cut through whole cultures, languages and stories to discover, at end, the most significant change in a story, often times, is within himself, and the change most worth recounting. In other words, seeker-sensitive.
  12. YGBFKM

    YGBFKM Guest

    Good post.
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