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I came across this today in one of my newsletters, a hangover from my college days when I took a media ethics course and wound up signing up for a daily reminder of what’s going on in the PR world. Most of the time, I find little to interest me, but “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” — and some of the other writing workshop articles — makes me glad I never dropped my subscription.
The profile, written by Gay Talese and published in Esquire magazine in April 1966, is a great example of New Journalism, of how to blend a straightforward newsy writing style with a more creative, descriptive approach.
I have to admit that, despite the 40 plus years of difference in when Talese wrote this article and my writing today, it really speaks to me. There is little attribution because Talese was there for many of these encounters. His powers of description are incredible and really made me feel as if I was there, with Frank Sinatra in the winter of ’65, getting angry at twentysomethings in a bar for not showing proper respect and not dressing immaculately, as did Sinatra himself.
I think this style of writing blends two styles of writing very well: the Hemingway-esque straightforward, no extra words approach and the creative writing, Austen or Dickens approach of loads of description, pages crammed with adjectives and adverbs.
It was serendipitous, really, for me to find this article yesterday, when my friend Courtney wrote a blog about the difficulty she’s having blending the English lit and the straight news styles of writing. I don’t know if this will help her, but eventually, she’ll find her own way. Good writers know there’s no shame in learning from those who came before you.