The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

How to Convert a Nonbeliever

March 6, 2014 | by

Gabriel García Márquez is eighty-seven today.

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Márquez in 1984. Photo by F3rn4nd0, via Wikimedia Commons.

INTERVIEWER

You describe seemingly fantastic events in such minute detail that it gives them their own reality. Is this something you have picked up from journalism?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

That’s a journalistic trick which you can also apply to literature. For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you. One Hundred Years of Solitude is full of that sort of thing. That’s exactly the technique my grandmother used. I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies. When I was very small there was an electrician who came to the house. I became very curious because he carried a belt with which he used to suspend himself from the electrical posts. My grandmother used to say that every time this man came around, he would leave the house full of butterflies. But when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it.

—Gabriel García Márquez, the Art of Fiction No. 69

 

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The Patron Saint of Writers and Journalists

January 24, 2014 | by

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Today is the feast day of Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists. A bishop of Geneva, Francis died in 1622. He was fond of using flyers and books to convert Calvinists—hence his patronage, though one can imagine him just as easily settling into a post as patron saint of marketing, or patron saint of well-meaning finger-wagging.

Francis’s most enduring work is 1609’s Introduction to the Devout Life, which was written for laypeople—a novel idea at the time. CatholiCity, a repository of “the Finest Catholic CDs, Booklets, and Novels,” calls it “the most popular Catholic ‘self-help’ book of all time,” and when you peruse the table of contents, it’s not hard to see why. There’s plenty of practical wisdom on offer, e.g., “All Evil Inclinations Must Be Purged Away”; “One Word to Maidens”; “Dryness and Spiritual Barrenness”; “How to Exercise Real Poverty, Although Actually Rich”; and, conversely, “How to Possess a Rich Spirit Amid Real Poverty.” Then there’s the meditation on hell, which goes from yogic to despairing at the drop of a mitre:

Preparation
1. Place yourself in God’s Presence.
2. Humble yourself, and ask His Aid.
3. Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of sulphur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get forth.

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“The Era of the Word,” and Other News

January 22, 2014 | by

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A Golden Age for journalism. (Journalism not pictured.) Illustration by Brahma Kumaris.

 

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“One Murder Is Statistically Utterly Unimportant”: A Conversation with Warren Ellis

August 15, 2013 | by

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Somewhere, on an NSA server in Utah, there sits an email from Warren Ellis threatening to strangle me to death with my own intestines.

Our all-caching surveillance state is something that might have been thought up by Ellis himself. A writer of novels, comics, essays, and movies starring a machine-gun-toting Helen Mirren, Ellis looks more deeply than most into our potential futures. Born in working-class Southend-on-Sea, he is best known as the writer of the canonical graphic novel series Transmetropolitan. A decade before the Internet-enabled explosion of independent journalism, Transmet corrupted a generation of young reporters, giving them the notion that journalism was the bullet that could “blow a kneecap off the world.” In January, he published bestselling Gun Machine, which exploits genre conventions to explore the ghost cities that exist in both high finance and the minds of the insane. Most recently, Ellis released Dead Pig Collector, a novella about love and body disposal, as a Kindle Single with FSG. He is currently at work on his first book of nonfiction.

We’ve been friends and sometime collaborators for a decade. When I told him I’d like to interview him for The Paris Review, he demanded proof that the editor hadn’t confused him with the violinist Warren Ellis of The Bad Seeds. When Sadie emailed to confirm that she realized he was, in fact, the bestselling author, he wrote me back: “I DIDN’T SAY ‘BEST SELLING’ YOU HORRIBLE INFANT!”

Ellis wears a field hat, drinks very old whisky, and chain-smokes Silk Cut cigarettes. He is forty-five years old.

You’re semi-crack-addicted to information. Whenever we talk, you have a podcast, the Economist, some ambient drone music, and a reader full of links open. Dead Pig Collector was inspired by an article you read on Chinese garbage disposal. Tell me about your information consumption.

This is going to be just another way for you to insist I listen to the sounds of insects having sex and calling it music while you pollute your apartment with the strains of some idiot with a ukulele wailing about consumption and sodomy.

We call that culture. As an Englishman, you wouldn’t understand.  

What would you know about culture?  You come from the town that gave the world the cronut.

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The Liminal Space

August 7, 2013 | by

Hiroshi Watanabe. Photo: Ivan Weiss

Hiroshi Watanabe. Photo: Ivan Weiss

For the past thirty years, the photographer Hiroshi Watanabe has split his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles. I met him at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park when he reported for his first day of work on the Bull City Summer project. He’s a compact man who moves carefully but fluidly; at age sixty-two, he resembles a boxing trainer or a retired gymnast. On meeting, he said to me, “I have a question—why did you invite me? I don’t follow baseball and I’ve never photographed it.” He already knew the answer—I think he wanted to find out if I did.

A few days later, during one of that week’s many rain delays, Hiroshi wandered into the dark, narrow room inside the left-field wall, behind the manually operated scoreboard on the thirty-foot Blue Monster. In this barnlike storage space, placard numerals are lifted and installed in the appropriate slots, facing outward into the stadium, to indicate runs, hits, and errors during games. Here’s how Hiroshi described what he found there:

I saw all these panels with numbers on them. I realized that the number zero had a certain translucent quality the other numbers didn’t have. The paint on the zero has been faded by more exposure to sunlight. This fading has made beautiful patterns—maplike, veinlike cracks. The passage of time offers different textures on different materials. In the scoreboard numbers, it’s just faded paint. Only zero shows the passing of time I’m looking for. Read More »

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Kleist’s Crime Blotter

January 8, 2013 | by

On the afternoon of October 1, 1810, people started gathering in front of Berlin’s Hedwigskirche, where a new paper would be selling its first issue. By evening the crowd had grown so large that guards were posted to maintain order. The whole city, it seemed, had turned out for the launch of the paper, the Berliner Abendblätter. Even the king had asked for a copy.

Officially, the Abendblätter was edited anonymously. Among the city’s literary elite, however, it was widely known that the paper was written almost single-handedly by Heinrich von Kleist, a young writer. Kleist’s plays and novellas were written with exceptional elegance, but were preoccupied with rape, war, and natural disaster. Kleist had once enjoyed the patronage of Goethe, but after a disastrous theatrical collaboration the two writers found it impossible to continue working together. Goethe admitted that his protégé filled him with revulsion and horror, “as though a body nature had intended to be beautiful were afflicted with an incurable disease.”

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