Running in the Summer issue of The Paris Review is a wonderful long interview with Gay Talese about his writing process, career, influences, and thoughts on nonfiction. Here's a small sample of the exchange. It picks up with questions about Talese's spartan home office, which he calls The Bunker.
"INTERVIEWER (Kate Roiphe): Do you like that the bunker doesn’t have windows?
TALESE: Yes. There are no doors, no time. It used to be a wine cellar.
INTERVIEWER: How do you write?
TALESE: Longhand at first. Then I use the typewriter.
INTERVIEWER: You never write directly onto the computer?
TALESE: Oh no, I couldn’t do that. I want to be forced to work slowly because I don’t want to get too much on paper. By the end of the morning I might have a page, which I will pin up above my desk. After lunch, around five o’clock, I’ll go back to work for another hour or so.
INTERVIEWER: Surely there must be some days in the middle of a project, when you’re really going, that you write more than a single page.
TALESE: No, there aren’t.
INTERVIEWER: But your books are so long.
TALESE: I take a long time. I have published relatively little given how long I have been working. Over fifty-five years I’ve only written five long books, two short ones, and four collections. It’s not that many.
INTERVIEWER: Is that because you spend a lot of time editing?
TALESE: Not really. I type and I retype. When I think I’m getting close, that’s when I put it on the computer. Once it’s on the screen I make very few changes. It’s the reporting that takes so much time. "
A longer excerpt is up at The Paris Review website, and you can purchase a copy of the Summer 2009 issue here, to read the entire piece. There is also a fascinating visual here of Talese's original handwritten outline for his famous genre-defining piece of literary journalism, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.
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