Monday, May 3, 2010

The amazing books that made me fall in love with journalism all over again-1

A.J. Liebling is hailed as the first of the great New Yorker writers, a "colourful and tireless figure who helped set the magazine's urbane style".

I recently finished reading Just Enough Liebling, an anthology of his articles from the New Yorker. Read these excerpts and you will get an insight into the ingredients of great writing.

  • From “A Good Appetite” (New Yorker, 1959):
“The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. Without this, it is impossible to accumulate, within the allotted span, enough experience of eating to have anything worth setting down. Each day brings only two opportunities for field work, and they are not to be wasted minimizing the intake of cholesterol.”

  • From “Paris the First” (New Yorker, 1959):
“The graphic arts had their origin in the free patterns made in the snow by Ice Age man with warm water. This accounts for the fact that there have been few good women painters. Lot’s wife, who looked behind her, may have been a pioneer, but we had a head start of several million years.”

  • From “Poet and Pedagogue”, Liebling’s magnificently descriptive feature on the New York professional debut of Cassius Clay, soon to thrill the world as Muhammad Ali (New Yorker, 1962):
 “Honest effort and sterling character backed by solid instruction will carry a man a good way, but unearned natural ability has a lot to be said for it. Young Cassius [Clay], who will never have to be lean, jabbed the good boy [Sonny Banks] until he had spread his already wide nose over his face.”

  • INTRO from Liebling’s “The World of Sport” (New Yorker, 1947):
“A police reporter sees more than he can set down; a feature writer sets down more than he possibly can have seen. I was eager to get a good job as a police reporter after I took my degree. As a maraschino cherry on the sundae of academic absurdity, the degree was entitled Bachelor of Literature, although what literature had to do with rewriting the [New York] Times paragraphs I never found out. I went swimming on commencement day.”

  • CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH from Liebling’s “The World of Sport” (New Yorker, 1947):
“One night some boy with pimples in his voice called up from Brooklyn to tell the Times about a particularly unfascinating [basketball] contest between two Catholic-school fives. I took the call and noted down all the drear details until I got to who was the referee. 'Who was he?' I asked. 'I don’t know,' the kid said, 'and anyway I ain’t got any more nickels.' So he hung up. We couldn’t use a basketball score in the Times without the name of the referee, so I wrote in 'Ignoto', which means 'unknown' in Italian. Nobody caught on, and after a while I had Ignoto refereeing a lot of basketball games, all around town. Then I began bragging about it, and after a short while my feeble jest came to the ears of [the sports editor Major] Thomas.

“ ‘God knows what you will do next, young man,' he told me after the first edition had gone to press on a bitter night in March. ‘You are irresponsible. Not a Times type. Go.'

"So I lost my first newspaper job.”

If you want to know more about the book, go here.

1 comment:

  1. This reads well. I am sufficiently inspired to go looking for the first two -

    1) Ingredients about good writing

    2) Relation of form and graphic arts to writing


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.