Henry Fender, Richard Kluger, United States discussed on City Arts and Lectures

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Generously. Interspersing readings from a couple of pieces in the new book the few lessons. I've learned about writing essays all came from my editor at the New Yorker Henry Fender, I I went to Henry in nineteen Ninety-four is would be journalist and pressing need of money. Largely through dumb luck. I produced a publishable article about the US postal service, and then through native incompetence, I wrote an publishable piece about the Sierra Club. This was the point at which Henry suggested that I might have some aptitude as an essayist. I heard him to be saying since you're obviously, a crap journalist and denied that I had any such aptitude. I've been raised with the mid western horror of yacking too much about myself, and I had an additional prejudice derived from certain wrongheaded ideas about novel writing against the stating of things that could more rewarding Lee be depicted, but I still needed money. So I kept calling Henry for book review assignments on one of these calls. He asked me if I had any interest in the tobacco industry, the subject of a major new history by Richard Kluger quickly said cigarettes, the last thing in the world. I want to think about to which Henry even more quickly replied, therefore, you must write about them. Direct quote. This is my first lesson from Henry, and it remains the most important one after smoking throughout my twenty s I'd succeeded in quitting for two years in my early thirties. But when I was assigned the post office piece and became terrified of picking up the phone and introducing myself as a New Yorker journalist, and it was very scary because I had essentially no journalistic experience and I've been assigned a fifteen thousand word peace. I'd take up the habit again in this year since then I've managed to think of myself as a non-smoker, or at least as a person so firmly resolved to quit again that I might as well already have been a nonsmoker even as I continue to smoke. My state of mind was like a quantum wave function in which I could totally be a smoker. But also totally not a smoker so long as I never took measure of myself, and it was instantly clear to me that writing about cigarettes would force me to take my measure. This is what essays do. There's also the problem of my mother whose father had died of lung cancer, and it was militantly anti tobacco. I'd concealed my habit from her for more than thirty for for more than fifteen years. One reason I needed to preserve my indeterminate see as a.

Coming up next