Since most of the books I buy these days are from secondhand stores, the one I’m reading now is a little old but still good. It’s called “The New Kings of Nonfiction,” and it was edited by This American Life host Ira Glass. When it was published in 2007, it was heralded as a collection of stories that capture “some of the best storytelling of this golden age of nonfiction.”
It includes authors Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Pollan, the late David Foster Wallace and a number of other male writers. Surprisingly, one of my favorite female writers — Susan Orlean — is also in the mix. I wouldn’t call Orlean a King but rather a Journalism Goddess. Her profiles in the New Yorker have become legendary, full of insights and scenes that make her subjects come alive.
The “New Kings” book includes Orlean’s article “The American Man, Age Ten,” which she wrote for Esquire Magazine. It’s a profile of a boy named Colin Duffy.
A snippet: “Here are the particulars about Colin Duffy: He is ten years old, on the nose. He is four feet eight inches high, weighs seventy-five pounds, and appears to be mostly leg and shoulder blade….I have rarely seen him without a baseball cap. He owns several, but favors a University of Michigan Wolverines model, on account of its pleasing colors. The hat styles his hair into wild disarray. If you ever managed to get the hat off his head, you would see a boy with a nimbus of golden-brown hair, dented in the back…”
After I finish “New Kings” I want to re-read “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup,” Orlean’s compilation of some of her favorite profiles. (Her essay on the taxidermy convention is the best!)
What are you reading this week?
(Illustration by Contemporary Collage and for sale, as a refrigerator magnet, on Etsy.)