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HIGH NOTES by Gay Talese


Selected Writings of Gay Talese

by Gay Talese

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63286-746-9
Publisher: Bloomsbury

A short anthology of features from acclaimed newspaperman and magazine writer Talese (The Voyeur’s Motel, 2016, etc.).

The collection features 13 pieces, many of which appeared in Esquire, where the author gained renown beginning in the early 1960s after his stint at the New York Times; others ran in the New Yorker, New York magazine, and the New York Observer. Despite having been published decades ago in some instances, the content of the magazine pieces does not seem dated; one of Talese's strengths has always been his ability to explore eternal themes. The anthology can also be appreciated as a demonstration of craft. Talese's techniques are worthy of study, especially his unique talent for fully immersing himself in the lives of his subjects. Unfortunately, the book offers little in the way of added value other than an insightful four-page introduction by writer/scholar Lee Gutkind, who is often known as the father of creative nonfiction. The anthology lacks fresh commentary by Talese himself, and none of the 13 pieces contain further analysis by Gutkind or others. Another disappointment is the lack of updates to the feature stories. Happily, the collection includes what is almost certainly Talese's best-known magazine piece, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," as well as previously published commentary by Talese about how the Sinatra story, which was published in Esquire in 1966, came together. In two pieces, Talese examines the inner workings of his former employer, the New York Times. Other subjects include an organized crime family (the Bonannos), a mass murderer (Charles Manson), a pornography publisher (Harold Rubin), an apparently homeless woman, a Russian opera singer (Marina Poplavskaya), and the unlikely collaboration of two pop-music stars (Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga).

A worthy collection that would have benefitted from further effort from the book’s editor and publisher.